Friendly Friends includes students from St. Petersburg Lyceum 239: Dmitry Yakovlev, Nikita Luskin, Elina Knyazeva, Dmitry Kovalko, and Valery Rybin. At ITMO’s Youth Robotics Lab they are working under the guidance of their coach Igor Lositsky, head of the lab.   

The team took part in the RoboCup Asia-Pacific 2021 remotely and came first in the category OnStage Preliminary Secondary. Robert Robotecky, the team’s winning project, is a robot who can play the concertina (a small harmonica-like musical instrument) and interact with team members, as well as with two eyeball-shaped delta robots who can sway to the tune.  

“The hardest part was getting Robert performance-ready as we are constantly updating his features. The team also had to prepare for a technical interview, where they would have to answer questions about the robot and their roles in its development. On the night before the contest, we had to stay in the lab till 3 am, but it was worth it and in the end we were able to paint a comprehensive picture that brought together art and science,” says Igor Lositsky.  

The size, mass, and design (the robot is the size of a human being) make the project really unique. In July 2021, the team was also deemed Best Novice Team at the RoboCup 2021 Finals. According to the team’s coach, in the future they are planning to expand Robert’s song repertoire with MIDI files. 

Robert Robotecky as seen in the video of ITMO's Youth Robotics Lab

Robert Robotecky as seen in the video of ITMO's Youth Robotics Lab

“That isn’t a simple task because with a concertina, the same keys play different tones depending on whether it’s being expanded or contracted, so Robert wouldn’t be able to play a melody from scratch – first, we would have to create a MIDI file for it. So far, Robert can play a scale from a MIDI file and we are also working on a piece of cyber theater software. It will enable us to synchronize the performances of all three of our robots, Robert, Seldon, and ELSA, within a single system. To this aim, we’ve developed a remote system that links robots together and controls their performances,” explains Igor Lositsky. 

RoboCup Asia-Pacific is an international robotics contest that was first held in 2017; this year, it took place in Aichi, Japan on November 25-29. During the contest, various robots played football, participated in rescue operations, and performed on stage. Participants could also attend exhibitions to learn about the history of the contest, as well as take part in workshops on robotics and programming.