Clubs are one of the key parts of the diverse extracurricular activities on offer at IE University. The huge range of student-led clubs brings together like-minded members of the IE Community in pursuit of their passions. Whether sporting, artistic, academic or career-based, our clubs are the engine of the IE Experience—and we do everything we can to support their endeavors.

In the case of the IE Robotics & AI Club, students are able to put their ideas to the test in the Robotics & AI Lab, located in the cutting-edge IE Tower in Madrid. Close ties of resource exchange and guidance exist between both; the projects being developed in this ecosystem showcase both the potential of emerging technologies and the talent in our student body.

Meet VictorIA

Every IE University student is welcome at the Robotics & AI Lab, but most of those who are drawn to its opportunities understandably come from programs related to the field. Some remarkable projects are being born there, so we thought we’d have a look at one of them: meet VictorIA, the robot, AI-powered Connect 4 player.

VictorIA is the brainchild of Alberto Puliga and Pablo Ortega from the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, alongside Ahmad ElBaba of the Bachelor in Data and Business Analytics. Wanting to build something fun and interactive, VictorIA is the result of their combined learnings from both programs. However, the project posed challenges for the three students to overcome from the start.

Three-part process

VictorIA comprises three main components: computer vision, where a computer “looks” at the vertical playing board to see where any chips are placed; algorithmic design, so the computer knows how the game works and where chips would be best placed; and robotics, to actually train a robot arm to identify the right chip, pick it up and place it correctly.

Alberto, Pablo and Ahmad admit that it was tough going from the beginning. Getting VictorIA to even recognize the two different colors of standard playing chips proved challenging. What’s more, changing lighting conditions and shadows presented unique problems: it meant the first part of constructing their algorithm was simply to identify which chips were which. The team calls this problem-solving process “the building block for all future development,” so they were all involved in these early stages before later moving into their own specialized areas.

They then had the task to develop an algorithm that not only understood how the game was played, but also how to win at different levels of difficulty. This is the robotic element of the project and it’s still in development, so further challenges no doubt lie ahead of our three innovators.

Multiple programs, multiple learnings

While Python was the principal programming language used in both the AI and robotics components of the project, it was by no means the only one. The team found OpenCV to be a great resource in tasks related to computer vision, while Minimax and other decision-making algorithms were used to help the computer predict and counter its opponent’s actions. A Robot Arm will be used to make the actual moves in real-world use.

Though they’re just getting started, Alberto, Pablo and Ahmad already understand the value of teamwork. They are blending different specialisms in a dynamic and effective collaboration. And they’re already thinking about how to use what they’ve learned so far to take VictorIA to the next level.

Future plans

Undeterred by the challenge of color recognition, the team hopes that VictorIA will eventually be able to play with chips of any hue. Along with getting the robotic arm itself fully functional, they plan to produce a more advanced algorithm that will make VictorIA practically unbeatable.

But it doesn’t stop there. “We envision this as a long-term project, aiming to integrate additional board games such as chess and checkers,” they tell us. Given all the possible moves and myriad combinations available in chess, such an algorithm would be extremely complex. But we have a lot of faith in our students—through collaboration, an achievement like that is within their reach. We can’t wait to see where VictorIA takes them next!

In the meantime, Alberto, Pablo and Ahmad invite you to come and play VictorIA at the Robotics & AI Lab. Theirs is just one of the countless exciting projects coming out of the Robotics & AI Club—check them out
on their website.