The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring the Robotics Challenge in Homestead, FL, Dec. 20-21, during which 17 teams of researchers will compete to give humanoid robots the abilities needed to collaborate with humans during natural or man-made disasters.
The teams will have 30 minutes to complete each of eight tasks, including climbing a ladder, removing debris, opening and walking through doors, cutting a hole in a wall, turning valves, and driving a car. The Florida competition is the second of the competition's three phases, with the final phase planned for late 2014, when the winner will receive a $2-million prize.
DARPA is hoping to improve robots' task-level autonomy, because communications during a disaster could be poor, requiring robots to have the intelligence to act more independently, says DARPA's Gill Pratt. Human controllers remain necessary for the time being, due to the unique challenges of developing software for a humanoid robot.
"The humanoid shape is inherently unstable," says Worcester Polytechnic Institute Ph.D. candidate R.J. Linton, who believes a humanoid robot capable of assisting humans during a natural disaster will be possible within the next 10 years.
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