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KUKA small robot plays Settler of Catan

At OTH Regensburg (Technical University of Applied Sciences) students teach the KR AGILUS how to play a famous board game

29 March 2016

The robot grabs an orange street and places it on a screen that simulates the playing surface of the well-known board game Settlers of Catan. As part of their robotics class, students of the OTH Regensburg did some basic research in software engineering, resulting in the board game project – a project that helped student Markus Webert finish his bachelor’s degree in computer science. His supervisor was Prof. Dr. Klaus Volbert, professor of computer science in Regensburg. 
Prof. Dr. Martin Weiss and Markus Webert are working with the KUKA small robot KR AGILUS. Source: KUKA Robotics.

Collecting Data for Artificial Intelligence

“Before I started my bachelor’s degree I thought ‘Programming, I don’t like that much,’ but now I’m really into it,” says Webert while standing in front of the robot cell with the KR AGILUS “When I started to get into programming I had a professor that suggested I take part in this really cool project to program an AI that could play Settlers of Catan. We started with an online game platform that required human players, and we used that platform to collect data from them. The goal was to use that data for stuff like Machine Learning later on so we could teach our program how to play.”

Industrial Robot makes Connection between Theory and Practice

Currently the robotics course at OTH Regensburg counts 40 students. Prof. Dr. Martin Weiss is the course instructor and professor at the Faculty of Mathematics and Science. He has an industrial background. Within his lessons practice plays an important part. “I teach courses where we use robots as a practical example to illustrate what very theoretical things in Mathematics and Computer Science might mean in the real world,” says Martin. “We don’t simply do things on paper or write programs, but with the computer and robot I can show that an equation has several solutions and the robot can move to the same position but use many different axis configurations to get there.”

Working with the KUKA Small Robot Fascinates Students

“Working with the robot you see pieces moving and you see the robot doing some interesting things, so the students really like the robot,” says Prof. Dr. Weiss. “They like it because they can put their ideas in very practical things. Sometimes students are afraid of mathematics, but the problems can be separated in such a way that one group works on the mathematics, the other works on programming and others work on the engineering, so I think the students get the point that this is something that requires teamwork, and that this is job where they might have a great future ahead.” The next step will be to install a camera to the KR AGILUS so that future students can then develop vision systems that allow the robot to pick up randomly oriented pieces. For now, the KUKA small robot will keep on placing buildings on the screen, building up settlements, optimizing streets and – of course - moving the robber.