Time to include communications at each driver station?

In competitive online gaming, communications is paramount. As a tech oriented game, it seems like FRC is behind the curve when it comes to communication behind the driver station glass. We have Drive coaches that have to run between teams yelling, and driver teams that can’t communicate with each other unless they take their eyes away from driving their robot.

I think we can look to the video gaming industry for a potential answer. What if we added some type of ventrilo / teamspeak or other servers to the field and give the laptops access to it through the driver station. Match it up with allowing bluetooth headsets that the team members can wear.

A lot of teams would probably look at it as a distraction, but it would be interesting to see if it would become useful over time and even more interesting what teams would do with it (voice controlled autonomous?).

Wireless communication with the human players could also unlock a new and interesting avenue.

That’s kind of an interesting idea. If I was to make a suggestion…

Have it coaches-only, at least at first–the 3 coaches on the alliance all get a headset and talk to each other, with the option of keeping drivers’ instruction “off-mike”. But also give the refs (head ref or appropriate substitute) a mike-only interface, so that they can call a foul in straight to the coaches as the foul is dished out. Something like “Hey, Red, back off or get a pinning foul in 3… 2… 1… Tech foul!”

That sounds really cool! And then teams wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to hear field personnel because they would have headsets too. As a drive coach, I’ve been wanting headsets FOREVER.

I’ve wanted headset communication between coaches and drivers for a very long time. It’d really make everything better.

Along this same line, it always intrigued me why off-the-field communication is discouraged.

As a spectator, I catch some things that I feel like my coaches don’t catch. NASCAR has a communication network that includes coach, drivers, and the spotters.

I wonder if there’s any particular reasoning behind this or if it’s just because “this is how it’s always been.”

  • Sunny G.

FIRST has to do this, it is so amazing. “Aerial Assist” would have been so much better if there was a mic system. Most importantly if the refs and the coaches had mics. What would the rules be of bring a mic system for your alliance to use? What if it used a bandwith that was allowed by FIRST?

I think it is to help try to even the playing field, not all teams have enough members to provide a spotting team. Also can you imagine people jockeying for ideal spotting locations in the stands, all the extra radio traffic, the different bleacher setups at each event that make spotting easier or harder… etc.

It would be awesome. But I don’t think there is a way to implement fairly.

Does anyone know of any teams that have tried wired voice communication networks in the player station between the drivers and coach?

A system like this would likely be wired, so it reduces the complexity on the teams side. Assuming each team brings their own headsets that is. In my opinion, perfect implementation of this system would be to have it all included with the field, and then have 3 jacks for headsets to go into at each station. The coaches jack would be marked, and have the ability to broadcast to other coaches or his drivers. Drivers would only be able to hear their specific coach, at least at first.

I know Kyle Hughes of team Rush (27) wears a speaker and microphone so she doesn’t have to shout to her drivers, but I’ve never seen a wired system.

Wow, that would be really cool! It would really bring alliance play to a whole new level.

If you’ve heard of Curse Voice, maybe something like that would be nice, you could call it FIRST Voice. It’s essentially like a Ventrilo or TS server, but has some nice features towards the game.

This could be the start of heading towards a really sophisticated driver station (with HUDs and everyting, JARVIS anyone?).

Oculus rift anyone?

Kyle wears that to mitigate a medical condition; I wouldn’t want to say more without her permission, and I don’t know the specifics anyway.

Other than that, a team-supplied communication system would fall under non-allowed equipment that has been part of the rules for many years. Allowing it in this year’s game would indeed be a “change” …

What could we do to suggest to FIRST to add that feature?

This thread has already done that. Frank will see it.

I’ve thought about implementing things like this on my own team, and the possibility of having it between alliance partners in the past, and honestly I’ve always thought that it wouldn’t help at all.

First of all, I’ve personally never had my drivers tell me that they can’t hear me well nor have I seen the effects of this. These are loud events, so you talk loudly to your drivers. I don’t know, there just isn’t a problem with it. I mean you are right behind them the majority of the time (accounting for jumping over to say something to another team’s coach).

That being said, if there were a communication device, I’d also have to be able to count on it 100%. As a coach, if I want to tell my partners something, I need to be absolutely sure that they are aware of what I told them. For this, generally I look for some sort of visual signal that they understood (like a thumbs up or a waive), I mean they’re occupied with coaching their own team too. If I had a headset, I personally wouldn’t feel really comfortable trusting it, and to be sure I’d probably want a ‘roger’ (or a QSL for those hams out there) confirmation. But I mean, people are going to forget to respond, and I really don’t want to be in the position to nag another coach during a match.

Bottom line, communicating in person just feels like a more foolproof option. I already have 6 robots on the field I have to worry about, I don’t want a radio (that I didn’t even set up) to be on top of that.

That’s my take on it. People can talk loudly, and your all only a few feet from each other. It’s not broken, I don’t need it fixed.

Of course, it’s not a question of an issue. There’s nothing per se wrong with the regular talking behind the glass between the coaches. But it is a question of whether or not we can make it better. Right now, there is a bit of hierarchy (at least in my experience) where the drive coaches are communicating the strategy between each other and then relaying it down to the drivers at the controls. What if you could make it more seamless by having direct communication between the coaches and drive teams on a single channel without ever having to look up from the controls or robot, for both the coach and drivers?

In the end, I don’t see why it couldn’t be optional for teams to use if the alliance isn’t comfortable with it. Having used headsets to communicate in competitive games myself, I can see the potential in an FRC application - communication is the most important thing to implementing effective strategy, and as we know, effective strategy wins matches.

Half of this thread is kind of a scary thought to me. Last year I was a ref at my home regional and we had headsets with mics for all the refs to communicate during the matches and otherwise.

There would be a large number of issues if the refs had to inform teams what they were about to get penalties on real time while trying to watch the game and confirm or deny various things. Many times on our field, the conversations over the mic would be, “Was that [penalty X]? I don’t have a good angle from here” and then the response. Or it would be someone calling a penalty on a team and another ref claiming it wasn’t a penalty, they had a better vantage point. Most of our ref team has worked together for a number of years, but if Coaches/Drivers/Etc were to be able to listen while we worked stuff out, we’d have a thousand more people standing in our question box after every match.

To make all that worse would be the possibility of the Coaches/Drivers/Etc trying to talk to us during the match. Everybody knows that FIRST events are controlled chaos in many ways, and that’s just an added level that I can’t see making anything better for anybody.

That being said, I can see the upsides to the alliances having communication among themselves. When I was on a team and competed, we just tried to talk strategy before the match and understand how everyone wanted to play, and do our best to play the respective parts.

Just my two cents though–

Maybe having refs warning drive teams in real-time or communicating with the drive teams might be difficult, but what if they had a small monitor at each end of the field (kind of like the assist monitor that nobody used) that flashed when a foul was committed and showed what foul it was and which team it was assessed to. This would be a pretty easy feature to add in and could lead to less use of the question box.

Only if we get to bring our own headsets… No way I’d want to share the same grimy, germy, teenagery headsets that everyone else uses at the event.

Love the idea. Only trifle I have is that it’s no fun to be the guy who has 4 different voices coming in at once and having to decipher who said what and what each means.