Summary:

Seventeen teams will spend two days navigating robots through difficult scenarios meant to mimic a rescue in a disaster situation.

DARPA Robotics Challenge entrant
photo: NASA JPL

Starting later today, some of the most capable humanoid robots in the world will congregate in Miami, where 17 teams will spend two days competing to prove they have built the machine to trust in a natural or man-made disaster situation. Up to eight winners will move on to the finals next year, where they will have a chance at winning $2 million.

The robots will compete in eight tasks that measure how they would perform in an unpredictable disaster situation:

  • Drive a vehicle through a zig-zagging course and then get out of the vehicle
  • Cross over a ramp and piles of uneven blocks
  • Climb a ladder
  • Remove debris and pass through a doorway
  • Open a door and walk through
  • Use a drill to cut out a segment of a wall
  • Close three valves
  • Unreel a hose

Meet some of the most awe-inspiring bots (in my opinion, anyway) below, or visit the Robotics Challenge site to see what all 17 teams have created.

Valkyrie

Just revealed last week, NASA Johnson Space Center’s Valkyrie resembles a very idealized version of the humanoid robot; standing at 6 feet 2 inches, Valkyrie is Stormtrooper-white and distinctively lady-like in its curves. Oh, and its chest glows like Iron Man’s.

NASA told IEEE Spectrum that Valkyrie is a precursor to the robots it would someday like to send to Mars. Not much has been revealed about what Valkryie can do, but it moves in a very human-like fashion, albeit slowly.

RoboSimian

RoboSimian comes from NASA’s rival Jet Propulsion Laboratory team, and it is the gymnast of the group. The robot has long, multijointed limbs and dexterous hands that allow it to grab objects and pull itself into the air with ease.

CHIMP

Carnegie Mellon University’s CHIMP is an interesting blend of a walking and wheeled robot. It can transition from walking on two or four limbs to rolling around on tank-like belts affixed to its knees and elbows to transverse different types of complicated terrain.

ATLAS

A 6-foot-tall frame with all of its electronic innards exposed, ATLAS is the Terminator-style robot we all love and hate. It is built by Boston Dynamics, which was recently acquired by Google, and will be used by several teams that are concentrating on software instead of hardware.

Hubo

Like ATLAS, Hubo will make several appearances in the competition. It was built by a team of universities led by Drexel. Hubo is bipedal and, from the looks of its helmet, kind of resembles a member of Daft Punk.

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