VDL Robot Sports is an industrial team. Its research goals are tied to the industrial activities of its members. Team members come from a variety of companies that are active in the high-tech equipment development. Obviously, developments in autonomous systems in general and the RoboCup initiative more specifically, will find their way to industrial applications sooner or later.
The development of high tech equipment is currently mostly centered on nominal use scenarios which are determined by the processes that have to run on the equipment. Provisions for handling exceptions are added later on top of the nominal use scenarios. By controlling the environment of the high tech equipment, the amount of exceptions is kept to a minimum. As a contrast, teams of autonomous systems like a robot soccer team in RoboCup require an entirely different development process. Now there is no nominal use scenario that the design process can focus on, and team performance is determined by emergent behavior.
One of the goals of the VDL Robot Sports team now is to investigate the gap that exists between currently used industrial development processes and a process that would be required for developing a team of autonomous systems. We want to investigate methods that reduce the sensitivity of the system to the uncertain environment. Being able to create systems that act predictable in an unpredictable environment is essential for RoboCup and is a desirable answer for many industrial challenges. The RoboCup initiative in combination with a varied team of industrial developers working in their own time provides for an excellent test bed. Industrial applications for autonomous systems in high tech are, for conservative reasons usually avoided where possible, so that there is only limited opportunity for developers to investigate AI techniques during their daily work. In addition, working cross-company will allow for developers to explore and appreciate which (other) companies and disciplines are of use.