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DARPA Issues $2 Million Robot Challenge

The experimental wing of the Pentagon has issued a $2 million prize for a robot that can assist in disaster response. Tasks may include closing a leaky valve and driving a utility vehicle. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The Pentagon’s experimental design department, known as DARPA, has issued a $2 million robot challenge, asking engineers to build a machine that can assist in disaster recovery. The winner will be determined by a competition in which the robot is assigned a host of tasks. One task may include driving a utility vehicle, requiring a complex visual system that effectively recognizes and responds to its environment. Improving robotic visual systems is surely one goal of the project since, according to James Donlon, program manager for DARPA’s Mind’s Eye program, today’s systems still contain many errors. 

What’s the Big Idea?

While the robot need not take humanoid form, it will be asked to complete tasks that are otherwise carried out by humans, such as driving a vehicle, removing debris from a blocked entryway, locating and closing a valve near a leaky pipe and replacing a component such as a cooling pump. ‘Roboticists say they may lead to the robotic equivalent of the Minotaur—a hybrid creature that might have multiple arms and not just legs but treads.’ The technology will no doubt be used for military applications though such a robot could easily benefit civilians in a wide range of disaster recovery situations. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


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