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Tough Robo-Challenge Casts Robots as Rescuers

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The Atlas robot, created by Boston Dynamics working with MIT researchers.

Global robotics specialists are developing robots that can perform emergency-response duties during emergencies, as their entries in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Credit: Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAIL

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge is bringing together leading global robotics specialists in a competition to design a robot that can perform emergency-response duties during disasters.

In December, the robots will compete in an obstacle course featuring eight challenges, such as traveling on uneven ground, getting into and driving a rescue vehicle, breaking down a wall, and shutting off valves.

Boston Dynamics worked with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers to create the Atlas humanoid robot. Robots excel at specific tasks, such as moving towards and picking up an object, says MIT's Russ Tedrake. "Where they fall down is planning what to do next. That's where the human comes in," Tedrake says. Atlas is monitored by a team of humans who review the robot's decisions and planned movements.

A less humanoid contestant is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory's entry called RoboSimian, which resembles a cross between an orangutan and a wolf spider. RoboSimian's sensing equipment is inside its body and it has four arms with seven joints each, providing more options for navigating an obstacle course.

Carnegie Mellon University is creating a humanoid robot called CHIMP, with legs that can fold up and serve as treads for rough terrain.

From New Scientist
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