From Thu May  8 16:14:54 1997
Subject: Update to "Find Life on Mars" Rules
From: Reid Simmons <>
Date: Thu, 08 May 1997 15:51:21 -0400
Message-ID: <>
Precedence: bulk
Status: RO
I've received two questions about the "Find Life on Mars" event (in fact,
the only two I've received since posting the "final" draft of the rules).
These have prompted a small change in the rules.  The newest draft is
included, below.  Changes from the last draft are on lines marked with "**".
Basically, we have added details about how the doors to the pen will look, and
have changed the penalty for supplying your own doors (was 100 point penalty
for marking your own doors, now 50 point penalty for marking your own doors,
or replacing them with another design).  If there are further questions on
this, or other, matters, please do not hesitate to speak up...
		   AAAI-97 Mobile Robot Competition Event 1
			     "Find Life on Mars"
				 May 8, 1997
			 Comments to

Mission Objectives
This task is inspired by the upcoming Pathfinder Mission to Mars, as well as
the tantalizing (albeit limited) possibility of life on Mars as depicted by
the recent meteorite analysis.  Your mission, should you decide to accept it,
is to explore a large area of Mars, looking for signs of past and current
life, and return the life-forms, and only those life-forms, to the lander for
further analysis.  From satellite imagery, we have some clues as to where life
may exist, but it is up to you to make a thorough exploration before your
batteries run dead.
Event Specifics
The robot will be placed in a large physically bounded area.  The arena will
be approximately 1000 square feet in area (either rectangular or hexagonal),
with lexan walls delimiting the boundaries (assume the robot landed in a
crater).  The floor of the arena will be littered with a variety of small
objects.  The "past life-forms" will be stationary spheres and cubes, about
the size and weight of tennis balls.  Currently, we anticipate having three or
four different colors for each shape.  The "current life-forms" will be
squiggle balls (they will all be the same color).  The rocks will all be
larger than the other objects -- at this time, we expect they will be real
In about the center of the arena will be a small enclosed pen with two
openings (the "lander").  The pen will be a square 1-2 meters in length and
width, will have lexan or cardboard walls, and the openings will be about 0.5
meters wide.  The openings of the pen will have small lips (~ 5 cm) to prevent
** the squiggle balls from escaping. The doors will be hinged at the top. One
** will be colored blue and the other will be red.
The robots will start adjacent to the pen.  The objective is for them to
collect as many of the colored objects and squiggle balls in the given time
** (5-10 minutes), and deposit them in the pen, sorted by mobility (that is, 
** the opening of the pen with the blue door is for squiggle balls, the red
** door is for all the different colored objects).  Penalties are given for
mixing mobile and non-mobile objects in the pen, and for putting any of the
rocks in the pen.  Penalties are also given for colliding with any of the
rocks (the Mars rover is fragile!)
Before the contest begins, hand-drawn maps will be provided showing where
certain colored objects and large rock-like objects *may* be located.  These
maps, which are not guaranteed to be totally accurate, may be used by the
robots to help them decide where to explore.  You can enter the map
information into the robots in whatever way you want.
In addition, certain areas of the arena will be "danger zones", where travel
within the zone will add penalty points.  The danger zones will be marked by
laying colored paper on the floor (exact color TBD, depending on the natural
color of the exhibition hall floor), and also by marking the location within
the map.  If possible, we will choose a color that will enable robots with
only b/w vision to distinguish danger zones from the exhibition hall floor.
There will be several categories of robot entries.  There will be separate
categories (with separate awards) for single robot and multi-robot teams
(depending on the number of entries, we may further subdivide multi-robot
teams into 2-3 robot teams and teams of 4 or more robots).  An overall winner
from the single and multi-robot entries will be determined by dividing a
team's total score by the number of robots in the team.
There is also a separate category for robots without manipulators.  Such
entries will have to get within 6 inches of an object, indicate somehow that
they have spotted the object, and indicate its classification (e.g., using
speech).  The robot must then pause for at least five seconds (to give humans
a chance to remove the object from the arena).  In addition, in the
non-manipulator category robots do not actually have to return the objects to
the lander.
There will be multiple trials, with each trial running for a predetermined
length (5-10 minutes).  The intention is to structure the event so that it
would be difficult for an entry to explore the whole arena in the time
allotted (for example, each trial may decrease the length of the event).
Points and penalties will be given as described below.
In all trials, points will be awarded for the *first* object of a given
shape/color, and then a different (typically smaller, but it may be the same)
number of points will be awarded for each subsequent object of that particular
shape/color.  This is to encourage robots to find a diversity of "life-forms".
And, obviously, no additional points will be given for picking up the same
object more than once in the same trial.
No modifications to the "Martian" environment will be allowed (rock-like
objects, "life-forms", danger zones, surrounding walls), although
modifications to the "lander" itself will be allowed for penalty points (see
Several trials will be held, of increasing difficulty.  The task itself will
not change between trials, only the complexity of the environment (and one
aspect of scoring).  The parameters of the environment that may be changed
are: number of different colored objects (some trials may have fewer different
colors); density of rocks; density of "life-forms"; accuracy of the apriori
map; placement of objects (e.g., certain objects may be surrounded on three
sides by rocks and/or danger zones to make it harder to get at them).  Another
parameter that may be altered is the ratio between the number of points
awarded for the first object of a given type, and the subsequent ones.
Probably, the points will be equal for the first trial, but for other trials
the first object will be worth significantly more points.
Note that we will not alter all the above parameters, and certainly not all at
once.  We will decide which parameters to alter based on the feedback we get,
if any, over the months leading up to the competition and how well teams are
doing during the competition itself.
The point/penalty values listed below are our current thoughts on how the
event will be scored.  The point/penalty values may be refined over the coming
months (and may, in fact, change from trial to trial).  We encourage feedback
on whether the scoring is deemed "fair".
20 points for picking up the first of a given type of colored object ("past
10 points for picking up subsequent objects a given type (may change between
50 points for picking up the first squiggle ball ("present life-form").
40 points for picking up subsequent squiggle balls a given type (may change
between trials).
50 points for placing the first of a given object or squiggle ball in the pen
30 points for placing subsequent objects in the pen (may change between
20 points deducted for placing an object in the wrong door of the pen.
40 points deducted for placing a rock-like object in the pen.
5 points deducted for colliding with a rock-like object.
50 points deducted for traveling within a danger zone.
200 points deducted for actively marking the pen and/or the openings of the
pen with beacons.
** 50 points deducted for supplying your own doors to the pen (different
** design and/or different colors) .
50 points deducted for breaking a squiggle ball (remember the Prime Directive!)
NOTE: For practicing, squiggle balls can be purchased from The Scientific
Revolution at 415-322-1876 or at your local scientific or toy stores.  We will
supply all objects used in the actual competition.