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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:33 AM
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[FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

From: https://www.firstinspires.org/roboti...fields-virtual
Written by Frank Merrick

Quote:
For 2019, we are focusing on providing virtual fields to all teams and for all kickoffs. Virtual fields have been available in the past, but we are inviting sponsors to provide a greater range of resources; from simple ‘google cardboard’-like experiences that can be used on common smart phones to a full-on virtual experience that use high end headsets.

The resources will be available immediately after the kickoff broadcast, and we’ll be notifying teams and kickoffs of what they can expect in the coming months.

We are making this push toward virtual fields for two reasons. First, virtual fields are a more practical tool for a growing number of teams. We are very excited about the opportunities virtual fields can provide teams in developing their game strategies. Second, there is a serious problem with the current field builder program.

As many of you probably know, for years we’ve had a field builder program under which FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoffs can receive plans to the “team versions” (the wooden versions) of the fields in advance of the official kickoff. This gave these field builders time to build the fields before kickoff so they could be ready for the teams to review.

However, there has been a persistent issue with the system: game leaks. While the field builders and their assistants don’t get access to the game manual ahead of time, anyone seeing the drawings or components of the game in advance can make a pretty good guess as to what the game entails (and, sometimes just as importantly, what it doesn’t entail) and what the teams may be asked to deal with. And while the great majority of field builders and their assistants keep what they see confidential, it only takes a few to break the secrecy of the game for all.

So, for the coming season, the field builder program is being replaced by the expanded availability of virtual fields (“team versions” will still be published with the rest of the game documentation at Kickoff).

For some, this is not a significant change. 45% of kickoffs, including some of our largest (with over 50 teams attending), did not have field builders for the 2018 season. For others used to seeing the team version of fields at kickoff, this will be significant. I recognize this change will not be popular with everyone, but I believe the move toward virtual kickoff fields is a natural evolution and enhancement of our program and is necessary to help preserve the integrity of the season.

I want to thank our field builders for all the work they’ve put into that program over the years. They’ve helped enhance the team experience at many kickoffs, and the great majority had the personal integrity necessary to not share confidential game information.

Frank
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:49 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Comments from a long-time Field Builder:
  • Great news -- one less thing, and more family time before Kickoff.
  • Flipside: field elements to build after kickoff compete for build resources that might otherwise go to prototyping. However, I think this could also be a net positive, because building field elements helps more with strategy brainstorming AFTER we've seen the game.
  • Also, students can get involved, who would have been prohibited by the old pre-Kickoff field builder NDA system.
Overall I like this change, do you agree?
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:49 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Maybe we can build virtual robots also and really cut down on costs.

It is too bad the few have to ruin this for the many.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:50 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Big advantage of a team doing a kickoff field is that they have something to run prototypes on immediately after kickoff. This was time advantage as even the most prodigious teams take a few days to make Team Version fields.

2019 Kickoff:
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:54 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Really not a fan of this change. Even a VR experience isn't going to give you the same sense of scale, tactile interaction with field elements, etc. that a remote Kickoff does. Sure, the elements were often not especially useful or accurate, but for a lot of teams being able to see and feel how big the goals are, what the obstacles are like, etc. just a couple minutes after learning the game was very valuable. And you can't quite get that experience from the (still very good) Kickoff field tour videos.

Sure, most teams eventually build their own, but it's really not the same seeing how big a goal is one week into build season versus 10 minutes into build season. All of this because small portions of the game leak sometimes? The leaks don't even come from the low cost field build diagrams most of the time.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:55 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

So getting rid a perceived advantage for a few teams is more important than giving all the teams that never build field elements a chance to interact with them?

The past few years the most significant leaks have come from suppliers releasing game specific materials prematurely. From what I've seen and heard about the materials released to field build crews they generally dont make the game clear and key aspects are often withheld until immediately before kickoff.

This feels like another attempt to cling to a falsitiy of the program at the expense of the team experience.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 08:58 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Not needing to dedicate resources to building field elements during the build season actually seems like an unfair advantage, so I'm glad FIRST is heading in this direction. I actually didn't even know that was thing.

Now we'll just be at a virtual reality hardware disadvantage to the well funded and connected teams. Situation normal.....
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:01 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Quote:
Originally Posted by sgeckler View Post
Not needing to dedicate resources to building field elements during the build season actually seems like an unfair advantage, so I'm glad FIRST is heading in this direction. I actually didn't even know that was thing.

Now we'll just be at a virtual reality hardware disadvantage to the well funded and connected teams. Situation normal.....
Google Cardboard...
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:04 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Quote:
Originally Posted by sgeckler View Post
Not needing to dedicate resources to building field elements during the build season actually seems like an unfair advantage, so I'm glad FIRST is heading in this direction. I actually didn't even know that was thing.

Now we'll just be at a virtual reality hardware disadvantage to the well funded and connected teams. Situation normal.....
https://vr.google.com/cardboard/get-cardboard/

$15 and your phone and your problem is solved. VR is not a limited resource anymore.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:18 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Personally not a fan of this change. There's always lots of errors and revisions found in the field building process, that will now be passed even more so onto teams.

The virtual field will be cool, but probably not close to as effective as a real field. We will have trouble with doing things with human games after the fact, and it will take a lot of the "wow" factor away from the post video experience.

I wish FIRST would have run heavy virtual fields in tandem with normal fields for a year first, but we will see how it goes.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:20 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Quote:
Originally Posted by sgeckler View Post
Not needing to dedicate resources to building field elements during the build season actually seems like an unfair advantage, so I'm glad FIRST is heading in this direction. I actually didn't even know that was thing.

Now we'll just be at a virtual reality hardware disadvantage to the well funded and connected teams. Situation normal.....
^^ This

Quote:
Originally Posted by notmattlythgoe View Post
$15 and your phone and your problem is solved. VR is not a limited resource anymore.
Not my phone. In any case, a phone isn't going to provide the VR experience that's possible with high end computers and headsets. (Or direct neural stimulation as I hear they're experimenting with over at 900.)

Overall: good news.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:22 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

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Originally Posted by GeeTwo View Post
Not my phone.
So you're telling me that not a single person on your team has a smart phone that was produced in the past 2 years?

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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:24 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

What about teams who are close enough to Manchester to go to the actual kickoff? Now they get to see a physical field right after the game reveal, and the rest of us will have to go build it afterwards. There is something irreplaceable about seeing the real thing.

Edit: I do actually think this is a positive change, I was genuinely curious.
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:31 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

It presumably will not effect the NH kick off since they get a real field for theirs.

Oops. Ninjaed
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:32 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Kickoff Fields Go Virtual

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris is me View Post
All of this because small portions of the game leak sometimes? The leaks don't even come from the low cost field build diagrams most of the time.
I totally agree that the Team Version diagram leaks are the most harmless source of leaks, but regardless of whether the game info they are leaking comes from field building or another source, the two most consistent game leakers I'm aware of are/were both field builders.
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