Micromouse Contests are A-mazing
Image by Kevin Wong on Flickr
There are plenty of AI tests and examinations in the tech world, but none are more fun to watch than micromouse competitions. These combine programming with robotics to create little techno-mice that run around mazes as fast as they can.
Sounds simple, but there are many layers to making a speedy micromouse. To start with, you need to program a mouse to navigate a maze as fast as possible. This means coding AI that can analyze any maze it’s put into and deduce where it needs to go. Take care not to let your mouse get stuck in a loop. That is guaranteed to put the kibosh on your race time.
Once you’ve perfected your maze traversal code, you need to ensure the bot remembers the maze and plots the perfect route through it. Micromouse contests usually let you do several runs to give each mouse an opportunity to learn the maze and find a faster route each time.
And finally, you can have the smartest brain in the world within a mouse, but if it moves too slowly, it won’t be able to post good times. As such, you’ll need to build a mouse that can physically navigate the maze quickly without bumping into the walls.
Some of the skills on display during micromouse competitions are amazing. For example, in the 2016 Taiwan Micromouse competition, the first-place winner, Hirokazu Kojima, scored a time of 61 seconds in the first run. The second cut that down to an immensely impressive 4 seconds, and, by the time the micromouse had refined its route, he had gotten it down to 3.5 seconds on the fifth run.
Of course, it’s going to be tricky to balance all of these things at once. As such, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on one aspect and build around that.
For example, you could make an AI that can get through whatever maze you throw at it without getting stuck. Or perhaps an AI that can refine its process on the same maze over and over until it gets the fastest run possible. Or maybe even make your own little robot that you can drive around a maze, even manually.
The 2016 1st place entry
More about micromice
Micromouse completes maze in under 4 seconds
Everything about micromice
Autonomous Robot Kit
Build a Micromouse Maze
Training Mice to Run in Mazes
Mouse squeezes through Lego Maze
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