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Posted: Jun 28, 2014
DARPA announces new challenges, teams, and research goals for the Robotics Challenge finale
(Nanowerk News) From June 5-6, 2015, California will be the stage for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals. Teams from around the world will meet at Fairplex in Pomona to compete for the $2 million prize to be awarded to the team that best demonstrates human-supervised robot technology for disaster response.
The DRC is a competition of human-robot systems developed to help emergency personnel respond to natural and man-made disasters. Participating teams from some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world are designing hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces to be tested in a series of tasks selected by DARPA for their broad relevance to disaster response operations.
“Six months ago at the DRC Trials, we began physically testing human-supervised robots against disaster-relevant tasks. Their impressive performance gave us the confidence to raise the bar,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, DRC program manager. “A year from now at the DRC Finals we will push the technology even further.”
While the tasks at the DRC Finals will be similar to the Trials, a number of new elements will challenge the team’s systems:
Robots will not be connected to power cords, fall arrestors, or wired communications tethers;
Humans will not be allowed to physically intervene if a robot falls or get stuck—robots that fall will have to do so without breaking and will have to get up without assistance;
Speed will be more heavily weighted in the scoring, and all tasks must be completed in a total time of approximately one hour (versus four hours in the DRC Trials);
Communications will be further degraded and intermittent.
Completing the tasks in the time allotted will require innovations on several fronts, including in the human-robot interfaces teams use to control their robots.
“For the first time, teams will be empowered to exploit cloud and crowd-augmented robotics, two highly promising research areas that allow onsite operators to leverage remote data, computing, and human resources,” said Pratt. “These research areas are in their infancy, but after the DRC Finals we hope to see significant innovation.”
A number of teams were declared finalists at the DRC Trials based on points scored during the December 2013 event, qualifying them for automatic entry into the DRC Finals and, for some, DARPA funding. The first-place finisher, SCHAFT, has elected to withdraw from the Finals to focus on the development of its first commercial product. Another finalist, Team THOR, has since split into two teams; one, Team Valor, remains at Virginia Tech and the other, Team THOR, is now based at the University of California, Los Angeles. All of the finalists except Team KAIST are presently receiving DARPA funding.
The 11 finalists are:
IHMC Robotics (Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Pensacola, Florida)
Tartan Rescue (Carnegie Mellon University, National Robotics Engineering Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Team MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)