From Tue Mar  4 02:24:40 1997
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 06:47:27 -0500 (EST)
From: (Ronald Arkin)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Final Rules - Home Vacuum Event
Precedence: bulk
Status: RO
AAAI-97 Mobile Robot Competition Event 3: Home Vacuum
Here are the final rules for the vacuuming contest. Please send
comments/questions to me ( with
copies to Erann gat@robotics.Jpl.Nasa.Gov, and Sebastian 
The point of this contest is to explore the usefulness of intelligence
in a task that appears to only require essentially unskilled labor --
simple household vacuuming. We believe that unlike vacuuming in
the service industry (factories, warehouses, etc.) home vacuuming
will require sensate intelligence to deal with the humans in an
everyday environment. For the AAAI contest, vacuuming robots
ought to be short on vacuum mechanisms and long on intelligence.
That is to say, simple suction, storage, and disposal devices are
sufficient for these tasks, but the robots will probably have to
make reasoned trade-offs among subtasks in real time to achieve
a high score. 
1) To show the value of intelligent robotics in a rudimentary
service task .
2) To let competitors measure the usefulness of their approach to
robot intelligence.
3) To have fun.
We have a three room house (kitchen, family room, den) with a
short hallway connecting the rooms. A smart vacuuming robot sits
at a charging/disposal station in the hallway where it can see
humans going in and out of the rooms (in the contest, charging a
waning battery should not be required, but depositing trash will).
Periodically, because of the activities of the human family living
there, messes appear in the rooms, and sometimes in the hallway.
The robot's task is to keep the floors vacuumed with minimum
interruption of the activities of the human family living there. As
such it is to vacuum on demand, when it knows a room might
possibly be messy and on a periodic basis.
The rooms will be setup using materials similar to last year's
competition. (The figure below is a sample layout; the actual
layout will be determined shortly before the competition and maps
will be released to all competitors upon their arrival). The door
openings to the rooms may be opened or "closed" (blocked).
Each room will have a set of office furniture: desks, tables, and/or
chairs of the kind used last year. We are looking into couches and
TV stands. Robots are not expected to vacuum under furniture.
    |           |
    |           |
    |    K      |
    |           | A 15' hallway with one 12'x 12' 
    |           | and 2 8'x10' rooms (3' doors).
    |           |
    |           |
  ----        -----------------
  --------       ------       -
  |               |           |
  |               |           |
  |      L        |    D      |
  |               |           |
  |               |           |
  |               |           |
  |               |           |
  |               |------------
Periodically humans will come and go in the rooms. As they do,
they may or may not leave "messes". The "messes" will consist of
circular piles of paper confetti between 12" and 18" in diameter.
Sometimes a human (possibly a teenager) may leave a mess in the
hallway. There may be more than one mess in a room.
The vacuuming robots will be restricted to carry no more than
two messes worth of trash before they must "deposit" the trash at
the deposit site. Simply releasing the confetti at the deposit
coordinates is sufficient to constitute a deposit. 
Allowable Environmental Engineering:
     Bar-codes may be used to mark the room doors at a 5 pt
     penalty for each phase described below 
     Marking humans incurs a 2 - 10 pt penalty per human. 
     Marking messes incurs a 5 - 10 pt penalty per mess. 
(Judges will determine the amount of penalty, depending on how
much marking is done)
Virtual Manipulation:
     Robots that can't vacuum must drive over the messes and
     must delay at each mess for 30 seconds. Humans may
     clean up a mess if the robot clearly went over all of it. If the
     robot only covered some of the mess, humans are only
     allowed to remove that part of the mess. Of course in
     phase 3 the robot should move to the nearest wall while
     the human is there. 
     Robots that cannot deposit trash must move over the
     designated deposit site and delay for 15 seconds for each
The Tasks:
Phase 1. "Once A Week" Vacuuming.
(First day trials). All the rooms are to be cleaned once a week. In
this phase, the robots will start at the disposal station, clean the
each room by vacuuming the entire area of the room, and return
to the disposal point. If messes are present (there may be from
zero to two messes in each room), the robot must return to
deposit the trash after every two messes. No humans will be
present for this phase. There will be no messes in the hallway for
this phase.
1) Fastest time (all three rooms must have been entered
(doorway cleared) at least once to qualify for fastest time):
     1st place -- 20 pts. 
     2nd place -- 10 pts 
     3rd place -- 5 pts. 
Max. score -- 20.
2) Clean rooms:
     ((per cent of room covered) x 10 )/room 
     ((per cent of mess cleaned up) x 10 )/mess 
     10 pts/(return for deposit) 
Max. score (three rooms and 2 messes/room):
13 x 10 = 30
+6 x 10 = 60
+3 x 10 = 30
3) Penalties: Navigation -- 5 pt penalty for each physical item
bumped or hit.
4) Bonuses:
     Innovative vacuum device -- 10 pts 
     Innovative deposit device -- 10 pts 
Max. score possible for Phase 1: 160 pts
Phase 2: "Tidy Up."
(Second Day Trials). The robot starts at the disposal station.
Humans will periodically enter and leave the rooms (possibly
leaving messes). It's the robot's job is to keep the rooms clean of
messes. Robots must not enter a room when a human is present
(during this phase, humans will not enter a room while a robot is
cleaning). During a given 15 minute run, humans will be present in
each room for 1 minute out of every 5, except for the family room
which will be occupied 3 minutes out of every 5. Robots may
clean messes in the hallway while humans are present there.
The house is laid out such that the family room is immediately
visible to visitors from the front entrance. Thus, to the family, a
clean family room is twice as important any other room being
1) Messes cleaned in 15 minutes (i.e., a mess is cleaned when at
least 80 per cent of the mess has been vacuumed):
     Kitchen, hallway and den: 25 x number of messes 
     Family room: 50 x number of messes 
Max. score:
(Max. of 2 messes per room/hallway)
 6 x 25 = 125
+2 x 50 = 100
2) Penalties:
     Navigation - 5 pt penalty for each physical item bumped or
     Avoiding humans - 10 pt penalty for each human touched 
Phase 3: "Clean my room".
(Third Day Trials). The robot starts at the disposal station. A
human will come into the hallway and indicate to the robot that a
room needs to be cleaned. The robot will then move to the room,
clean any messes there and return to base to deposit the trash.
While the robot is cleaning the room, one or more humans will
enter. The robot must not clean while a human is in the room, but
must move to the nearest wall and wait until the human leaves.
1) Detecting and interpreting human indication of messy room.
Max. score -- 25.
2) Clean rooms:
     ((per cent of mess cleaned up) x 10 )/mess 
     10 pts/(return for deposit) 
Max. score
  3 messes x 10 = 30
2 deposits x 10 = 20
3) Ability to stop vacuuming and retreat when human is present in
the room - 25 pts. 
4) Innovative human-robot communication -- 50 pts. We will
reward natural communication that does not involve physically
touching the robot or keyboard or mouse. E.g., gesturing, or
acquiring and tracking.
Max. score possible for Phase 3: 150.
5) Penalties:
     Navigation - 5 pt penalty for each physical item bumped or
     Avoiding humans - 10 pt penalty for each human touched 
Maximum possible contest score = 535 pts.