IEEE ICRA 2024 | Bots & Bento | The first Robotic Pallet Handling Competition

Europe and Japan have excellent robotics researchers and industrial robotics companies. To further foster collaboration, the TUM Venture Lab Robotics / AI and the UTokyoIPC are hosting a new ICRA competition focusing on entrepreneurship and the goal of translating excellent research into new industrial applications.
ICRA 2024 - Bots and Bento competition - 3d perspective


Our goal is to drive innovation in autonomous material handling through a competition in which teams design and build robots using identical, pre-supplied robotics kits to perform pallet handling tasks within a specified area as part of our first challenge.

This first inaugural competition, co-organized by Olive Robotics, UTokyoIPC and TUM Venture Lab Robotics / AI, is a competitive platform for IEEE ICRA 2024, and is designed to foster innovation and practical skills among budding robotics professionals in the field of autonomous material handling. Within the Bots & Bento Challenge, competitors are tasked with designing and programming a robot that is able to locate, transport and stack standardized palettes containing the Japanese delicacy Bento. The rules are simple: given a pre-defined set of available hardware components, design your own robot and let it stack palettes as high and as efficiently as possible. The detailed set of rules will be made available to the final, selected teams shortly before our first virtual meeting on April 8.

The Bots & Bento Challenge at IEEE ICRA 2024 will be held from May 13th to May 16th in Yokohama, Japan. Acting as the local partner in Japan, UTokyoIPC will be responsible for handling the on-site organizational tasks, whereas the Germany-based team takes care of supporting participants and shipping hardware and providing the simulation environment and later on be onsite to manage the competition itself. To ensure first-class support to all challenge participants, the number of teams allowed to participate is limited to six teams with up to six team members each.

To streamline processes and reduce the burden on participants of shipping large, bulky robotic systems to Japan with potential complications with customs, freight and clearance and therefore delayed hardware deliveries, the preparation phase of the challenge is kept quite lean. The entirety of competition hardware needed is sent to Japan by the challenge organizers. This guarantees smooth transport of hardware and improves logistics handling. Additionally, we introduce a virtual simulation environment with a detailed representation of the challenge arena and the robot hardware (eg. given in Gazebo, URDF) already sent approx. one to two months in advance. In this virtual representation participants are able to design and train their robots to handle and stack the Bento boxes. At ICRA, participants will then get two days of time upfront to assemble their own robots based on their virtual designs.

Awards & Budget

TUM Venture Lab Robotics / AI and UTokyo IPC will both share the burden of supplying max six teams with robotics kits, which will be returned by the teams to the hosts after the competition.

🏆 All teams that meet the qualifications and participate will be awarded certificates of participation. The announcement of the final award prize for the top-performing teams will be made shortly.

Schedule 2024

Jan 4th

- Public call for challenge participation
- Challenge info website online
- Application process open

Mar 25th

- Final application deadline for competitors (link to apply below)

Mar 29th

- Announcement of the confirmed and accepted teams

Apr 8th

- First virtual get-together with all participants and the challenge organizers

May 12th

- Venue setup by challenge organizers

May 13th

- Welcoming challenge participants in Yokohama
- Day one of robot assembly

May 14th

- Day two of robot assembly

May 15th

- Challenge Session 1

May 16th

- Challenge Session 2
- Award Ceremony & end of competition

Alignment with ICRA

The "Bots & Bento" challenge embodies cutting-edge robotics and AI technologies pivotal in modern autonomous systems. SLAM algorithms are honed for accurate robot localization amidst dynamic environments, while efficient path planning is crucial for optimizing the collection and stacking of pallets. Precise motion control ensures safe and accurate handling of pallets for stable stacking. The competition leverages ROS and ROS2 frameworks for orchestrating a seamless choreography between perception, decision-making, and control, fostering modular, collaborative robotics development. Additionally, sensor fusion and machine learning for perception are crucial for a holistic understanding of the environment and advanced object recognition, respectively.

The competition further promotes real-time systems ensuring robustness in dynamic, unstructured environments, a core theme in contemporary robotics research. The provision of a hardware kit encourages hardware-software co-design, fostering innovation in integrated solutions for autonomous material handling. AI-driven decision-making enables adaptive strategies for stacking pallets based on their IDs, optimizing the process further. Although not explicitly mentioned, potential Human-Robot Interaction elements could be integrated to ensure safety and collaboration in shared spaces. Through a practical, industrially-relevant challenge, this competition provides a platform for the ICRA community to showcase, test, and advance the state-of-the-art in robotics and AI, aligning perfectly with ICRA's mission of propelling the global robotics community forward.


  1. TUM Venture Lab Robotics / AI : This early-stage robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) incubator of Technical University of Munich and UnternehmerTUM provides a unique, networked hub specifically tailored to scalable startups. We provide comprehensive support, including mentoring, access to industry experts, state-of-the-art facilities and tools, funding opportunities, and a vibrant community of like-minded innovators. By combining deep industry knowledge with a hands-on approach, we empower startups to rapidly develop and refine their technologies, gain a foothold in the marketplace, and successfully navigate the challenges of scaling. Our unique selling point lies in our commitment to disruptive deep-tech innovation and advancing the future of robotics and AI through our dedicated support ecosystem.
  1. UTIPC: UTokyo Innovation Platform Co., Ltd. (UTokyoIPC for short) supports various startups in deep tech fields, which have the potential to significantly change society, including life science and medicine, robotics and hardware, IT services and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the innovation ecosystem around universities. UTokyo IPC provides not only funding support but comprehensive mentoring support for academic technology seeds to deliver it to society and also consulting for team building. It operates the largest incubation program "1stRound", which is dedicated for pre-seed startups, entrepreneurs and researchers spin-out from universities and R&D entities. 1stRound is co-hosted by 13 of the most prominent universities and sponsored by 24 of leading industrial companies in Japan.
  1. OR: Olive Robotics GmbH is a leading provider of interoperable, software-defined robot hardware based in Munich, Germany. Within this challenge Olive Robotics will provide robotic kits, technical expertise, co-organizing and competition evaluation on-site.

Apply · until Mar 25, 2024

This is your chance to apply for the "Bots & Bento" competition.

You can find the registration link below.

Registration for ICRA 2024 "bots and bento" challenge