Robots compete in real-life conditions in Barcelona

Barcelona, 30 November 2017

HEARTS quote updated on 14 December 2017

The headquarters of the company PAL Robotics offered an important real-life learning environment when international teams competed in a European Robotics League (ERL) Service Robots competition in Barcelona, Spain.

The robots entered by five teams faced a range of challenges in a simulated home environment, which tested the robots' ability to help people with age-related impairments or disabilities in their daily lives. Future commercial versions of such assistive robots could help people to remain independent for longer.
At the Barcelona contest, held on 22–24 November 2017 as part of the European Robotics Week, PAL Robotics provided a simulated home of an old woman who cannot get out of bed. The robots — competing against the clock — had to receive and recognise a doctor, a postman and a messenger. The challenges included recognising objects and understanding natural speech.

ERL competitions aim to boost research in assisted-living robotics by giving the teams valuable experience of real-life environments that require rapid learning and problem-solving.

"This is not just scientific stuff but robots are put in real environments and have to be there to solve actual tasks," said a member of the HOMER team, from the University of Koblenz in Germany. "That’s quite a problem because the robot needs to be robust, needs to interact with humans, needs to recognise objects."

“Research labs are sometimes sterile environments, quite clinical. When you come to an environment like this that represents a realistic home which is differently organised to the assisted-living environment in which we practised, and things are not quite where you expect them to be, there is a lot to learn about dealing with uncertainty, That’s what has been so valuable about the competition, that we can test our robot in another environment,” said the HEARTS team member Zeke Steer, from the Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK.

A member of the IRI team from Barcelona praised the ERL: "I think it is a good way to complement the stuff you learn in your course. Giving the opportunity to the students like me to think about problems, without knowing anything about how people have solved them before, is a good way to discover new ways of solving the same problems."

The ERL is an EU-funded initiative that also runs competitions for industry and emergency robots. "It is a European championship of robotics that seeks to develop innovation in order to maintain and extend the European leadership in robotics," said Carlos Vivas, the business manager of PAL Robotics, which is the ERL Service Robots platinum sponsor.

PAL Robotics has also supplied some ERL teams with TIAGo robots. The HOMER team, for example, has a TIAGo, said the team member above: "I’m impressed by the progress we’ve made in just one month with TIAGo. We received it one month ago and we are already able to keep objects, to navigate properly. And I think that we can achieve much more in the future."

"It was really nice, especially here at PAL Robotics because we had a whole bunch of robots here, so we didn’t have to bring our own," said a member of the Robotics Lab UC3M team. "Essentially the problem with robotics up to now is that all the fields have been studied separately, and all these ERL challenges force us to focus our developments on integration. So you are bridging all the gaps that are classically there in robotics."

PAL Robotics has been developing service robots for retail, automotive, aeronautical, and research and development uses since it was formed in 2004.

ERL prizes will be awarded at the European Robotics Forum 2018, which will be held in Tampere, Finland on 13–15 March 2018.




ERL press contact

Vic Wyman


Tel: +32 2 706 83 68



Twitter: @eu_Robotics





PAL Robotics contact

Judith Viladomat

Corporate Communications

PAL Robotics

Tel: +34 93 414 53 47


For details of PAL Robotics’ TIAGo see:


Notes for editors




Videos and pictures can be found here:

For non-edited video footage of the Barcelona competition contact Judith Viladomat at PAL Robotics (details above).

Images can be found on Dropbox here.


Participating teams



University of Koblenz-Landau, Koblenz, Germany



Robotics Lab UC3M

Universidad Carlos III (UC3M), Madrid, Spain




Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial, CSIC-UPC, Barcelona, Spain



Healthcare Engineering and Assistive Robotics Technology Systems (HEARTS)

Bristol Robotics Laboratory, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK




Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR) from Instituto Superior Técnico University, Lisbon, Portugal



Barcelona competition scores

Find the scores here:


European Robotics League

The European Robotics League is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n° 688441.

It is part of the SPARC public-private partnership set up by the European Commission and euRobotics to extend Europe’s leadership in civilian robotics. SPARC’s €700 million of funding from the Commission in 2014̶20 is being combined with €1.4 billion of funding from European industry.

euRobotics is a European Commission-funded non-profit organisation which promotes robotics research and innovation for the benefit of Europe's economy and society. It is based in Brussels and has more than 250 member organisations.