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DARPA’s Rescue Robot Can Navigate Lots of Obstacles, Still Not Ready for Ninja Warrior

The DARPA Robotics Challenge kicked off yesterday with a new video from the military technology agency simulating the kinds of challenges the teams involved in the challenge might come across. It shows the Pet-Proto, a precursor to DARPA’s Atlas robot, navigating a series of obstacles like stairs, a gap in the floor, and a jump. The point of the challenge is to develop robots that are suited to handling situations that would otherwise be too dangerous or impossible for a normal human. Robotic Ninja Warrior episodes will just have to wait.

Here’s the relevant passage from DARPA’s website about the challenge:

The primary technical goal of the DRC is to develop ground robots capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments. Competitors in the DRC are expected to focus on robots that can use standard tools and equipment commonly available in human environments, ranging from hand tools to vehicles, with an emphasis on adaptability to tools with diverse specifications.

It’s probably important to note exactly what DARPA’s suggesting here. They want adaptable robots that can drive or use power tools. If that doesn’t sound something like a Terminator focused on mundane tasks, nothing ever will.

A secondary goal of the challenge is to provide access to the necessary hardware and software for “ground-robot systems” to interested parties. DARPA will be providing some of the teams involved with an actual robotic platform with which to fiddle, and all teams involved will have access to a simulator filled with robot models and field environments. Basically, it’s like Christmas came early for everyone involved.

(YouTube via Wired)

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