Thursday, March 26, 2015

Darpa Robotics Challenge

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, DRC, is a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. It was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response.

Following a Virtual Trial or simulation, the DRC Trial with physical robots was held in 2013. IHMC (out of Pensacola, Florida), who placed first in the Virtual Trials, made the following video of their experience. Needless to say the participants learned a lot - the hard way! The robots at the trials were tethered to prevent falls, and for communication, and for power. An archived website of the Trials is here for information and research -  
The DRC Finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California. The DRC Finals will require robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks, with degraded communications between the robots and their operators; the winning team will receive a $2 million prize. In the finals, the tethers will be removed, communication will be wireless and all robots must complete the challenge using only their battery packs! Much more difficult!

Technologies resulting from the DRC will transform the field of robotics and catapult forward development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in the hazardous, degraded conditions common in disaster zones. 
Here is a more recent video showing improvements in the Atlas Robot, made by Boston Dynamics, that many teams are using.

This will be and amazing event! Who wouldn't want to be there? I know I'd love to go, but it will be streamed live on the web and heavily covered by the press.

Da Vinci's Tank Design
Many roboticists are suspicious of all this technology being developed by the military. But money for research has almost always been supplied by governments and the military for development of such technology. Even Leonardo da Vinci developed weapons and military technology for those who were his patrons. The fall out for the everyday life is always tremendous. Robotics will develop exponentially from these sorts of contests.

One more video that features some of the key players and their creations involved in the Darpa Robotics Challenge Trial back in 2013. One of the great things in the world of robotics is the cast of characters that are the leaders in the field - young and old, straight-laced and quirky, and from all over the world! I find it all really exciting!

The winner of the 2013 Trials was SCHAFT, shown in the video above and specifically featured in the video below demonstrating completion of each of the challenge's eight task requirements.

Much of the content of this post comes directly from

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