Calling all robot-makers! The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is calling on anyone who can advance current robot technology past existing limits to create an autonomous bot for the DOD’s “disaster recovery mission.”
“Robots played a supporting role in mitigating fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, and are used by U.S. military forces as assistants for servicemembers in diffusing improvised explosive devices,” notes DARPA’s press statement.
The robots created by the teams will compete in a variety of challenges that simulate real-life disasters.
“For robots to be useful to DoD they need to offer gains in either physical protection or productivity. The most successful and useful robots would do both via natural interaction with humans in shared environments,” said DARPA Acting Director, Dr. Kaigham Gabriel.
At-home robotics enthusiasts, university research teams or robotics companies — anyone can apply to be part of the challenge. And you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to participate. In addition to the main challenge, individuals and teams will have the opportunity to contribute to open-source development of a disaster Simulator Platform (details of which will be made available in a future announcement).
DARPA posted this example on YouTube on Wednesday of what a robot in the challenge might look like:
“Any designs are welcome provided they are compatible with shared human-robot environments, compatible with human tools, and compatible with human operators so that a human without expertise in robotics can give commands and confidently anticipate the response,” said a DARPA spokesperson.
An image from DARPA’s Robotics Challenge overview PDF:
“This challenge is going to test supervised autonomy in perception and decision-making, mounted and dismounted mobility, dexterity, strength and endurance in an environment designed for human use but degraded due to a disaster,” said DARPA program manager Gill Pratt. “Adaptability is also essential because we don’t know where the next disaster will strike. The key to successfully completing this challenge requires adaptable robots with the ability to use available human tools, from hand tools to vehicles.”
The DARPA Robotics Challenge will award the winner (or winners) with a $2 million contract or grant. There are four different “tracks” within the challenge, each with different prizes and requirements. Some prizes offer contracts plus government-funded equipment, which allows teams without much funding to participate. But to be considered for a track with a prize including government-funded equipment, teams must submit a proposal. The program is currently taking sign-ups and will officially kick off in October 2012.
What do you think about DARPA’s Robotics Challenge? If you built a robot, what would you make it look like? Tell us in the comments.