Monday, June 22, 2015

DARPA Robotics Challenge winner

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the USA created a robotics challenge in 2011 to encourage innovators to design and create a robot that could be used for rescue purposes in all types of disasters. Since then there have been 3 competitions, and 23 semi-finalists competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, held 4-6 June 2015 in Pomona, California. It involved $3.5 million in prizes for the top 3 teams.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) website:

The description from the website: "The 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."

The 8 tasks were chosen as being relevant to disaster response:
  1. Drive a vehicle (same vehicle type as in Trials).
  2. Egress from vehicle.
  3. Open door and travel through opening.
  4. Open valve (similar to one of 3 valves in Trials).
  5. Use a cutting tool to cut a hole in a wall (similar to one of the two tools and the wall in Trials).
  6. Surprise manipulation task (not disclosed until Finals).
  7. Traverse rubble - Either cross debris field (by moving the debris or traversing it, similar to Trials) or negotiate irregular terrain (similar to Trials).
  8. Climb stairs (fewer steps and less steep than in Trials).

The DRC website has videos of the competing robots performing the variety of tasks (successfully and unsuccessfully), in addition to information about each team and the robots.

DRC videos:

The top finalists are:
  • Team Kaist (Republic of Korea)
  • Team IHMC Robotics (USA)
  • Tartan Rescue (USA)

The winner of the competition, Team Kaist, won with a robot called DRC-Hubo, an adaptable multifunctional device with the ability to transform from a walking robot to rolling on 4 wheels by bending and using wheels incorporated into its knees.

DRC-Hubo from Team Kaist

The section of the website for Team Kaist has a variety of videos, ranging from 1:02 to the "Full Video" (9:46) titled Team Preparation. There is no speaking in the videos, but they show the winning robot completing the variety of tasks (with background music).

Team Kaist section:

There are such sections for each of the 23 competitors.

By the time the competition took place and the winners announced, my academic semester was almost over. So I was not able to use much of the excellent material on the DRC site. However, my students brainstormed ideas of which tasks they thought a rescue robot should be able to complete. Then they looked at pictures of the robot entrants, and discussed which ones they thought would win. Next semester I will use the technical material for a few robots to have students guess which ones were more successful in completing the tasks.

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