DARPA’s Robotics Contest to be held June 2015

 

This coming June in Pomona Calif., 25 humanoid robots built by various companies will run through an obstacle course meant to resemble a disaster area if all goes as planned.

Hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Pentagon’s high-tech research unit, this annual contest started in 2012.  On Thursday, DARPA announced the 11 finalist. The companies come from Germany, Italy, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United States.

LiveScience was told by Gill Pratt, a program manager of the Robotics Challenge  that the participants will have one hour to finish the course, which involves driving a vehicle to a simulated disaster zone and walking about 30 feet through a field of obstacles, closing a valve, do some wiring, cutting a hole through a wall, climbing stairs, and exiting a building, according to the report. There is also be a surprise task that the teams cannot prepare for, Pratt said.

“We are trying to make robots and human beings work together,” Pratt said in a Thursday news conference. “Robots are very good at working in dangerous environments, while humans are very good at making judgment calls.”

The three winning teams will receive a combined $3.5 million in cash, according to  DARPA officials. Teams earn points for completing each of the tasks, but if teams are tied, the one that completed the course faster will win.

There is a new furrow in the competition for this year. The organizers will purposely upset communications between the robot and its human controllers forcing the machines to function semi-autonomously. The robots will also have to operate untethered, which requires them to maintain their balance or, if they fall down, to able to get back up.

The contest sponsors are concerned as to what the Department of Defense’s ultimate end game with robotics is. In late 2013, Google, who acquired the Japanese robotics company Schaft Inc., pulled out the company’s robot submission to DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google has invested more in robotics, but did not want Schaft’s technology on display for DARPA, according to the report. Google has made no public comment for the reason behind its withdrawal of the Schaft robot.

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