We recently spoke with Rodrigo Ortega, Team Leader of Donaxi's team at Universidad Popular Autonóma del Estado de Puebla, about the upcoming RoCKIn2015 event. Here's what he had to say about their mission, vision and preparation for the final event!
Hello Rodrigo - thank you for joining us today. To start with, could you give us a bit of background information on your team, its aims and mission?
First of all, thanks for the interview. I think it's worth mentioning that our team is formed only by undergraduate engineering students, led by Dr. Hector Simón Vargas, member of the Mexican Federation of Robotics. The main purpose of our project is to assist elderly and handicapped people. This is accomplished through the development of technology and implementation of known algorithms.
What appeals to you about RoCKIn and how does it complement your research and personal development goals? What about robot competitions more generally?
Personally, I believe one of the most important aspects of the RoCKIn competition is the data collection, because that leads to better performances in the future. Furthermore, the story created around the competition focuses on the assistance of one elderly person, which is one of our main priorities.
Have you been involved in robotic competitions before? If so, what were some of the highlights for you?
This is my first international competition but I've been involved in one national competition. As for the robot, it has participated in many RoboCup's (Istanbul, Amsterdam, and México City, among others). From what I've heard about these competitions, the most amazing part is helping each other and acquiring feedback on your robot. The biggest improvements in development have happened right after each competition, this is where you can detect failures and areas to improve.
What role do you think competitions have in furthering innovation in robotics?
A very important one - being around other robots and seeing their programming and construction is extremely eye-opening and makes you realize you are not the only one doing something. Through the competition, you'll often discover that there's a more effective way of doing something that initially you thought was as optimized as it could be.
How are your preparations for RoCKIn2015 going? What are you finding to be the most challenging areas?
It's a very long process, there are no shortcuts. We migrated to a new platform and we're doing our best to have everything done on time. Amazingly, we've realized through time that the most challenging part is the integration, although not the communication between programs and services, but the communication between the members of the team.
And finally, what do you think the future holds for domestic robotics?
I think the only unknown variable in the development of service robots is the time it will take to be 100% functional and merchantable. The speed of the evolution of robotics is breathtaking, nowadays everyone can have their own development platform and make contributions to the community. We live in a world that is connected in every possible way, and there are no boundaries left. We are only a few steps away from having our personal assistance robot.
Thanks for your time Rodrigo - we're looking forward to seeing you in Lisbon!