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Monday, October 29, 2012

DARPA Robotics Challenge 2013-2014

Credit: DARPA/Boston Dynamics, GFE Platform
DARPA, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, this week launched a new "Robotics Challenge," to develop ground robotic capabilities to execute complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments. The program will focus on robots that can use available human tools, ranging from hand tools to vehicles. The seven hardware teams below announced this week they will compete for a $2 million prize.

The Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) event to be held in June 2013 aims to test teams’ abilities to control a simulation of the Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) robot to accomplish a subset of the physical challenge. In December of 2013, teams with both the GFE robot and custom robots developed for the competition will participate in the first physical competition, the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge. In December of 2014, DARPA will host the final Challenge event, an end-to-end disaster-style scenario in which teams will compete for the final prize of $2,000,000 USD.

The GFE platform is being developed by Boston Dynamics, Inc., based on its Atlas humanoid robot platform and modified to meet the needs of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The GFE Platform will be physically capable of performing all of the tasks in the disaster response scenario. The platform has two arms, two legs, a torso, and a head, for a total of 28 degrees of freedom.

The Robotics Challenge is a direct answer to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster that befell Japan following a massive earthquake in March 2011. Japan, despite being known as a leader in the field of humanoid robotics, had no readily available robots that could enter the plant site – besieged by water from a tsunami after-effect of the earthquake, lacking power, and under meltdown conditions – to take stock of damage and begin work to stave off disaster and/or repair damage to the nuclear facility.

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