DARPA’s New Robot Conquers Stairs

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A torso, arms and a head are planned for this stair-climbing DARPA robot to be used for developers in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

No sooner does DARPA lay down the Robotics Challenge gauntlet do they then entice would be entrants by giving them a glimpse of what they get to work with. DARPA released a video recently of their robot stomping impressively up a flight of stairs. If you’re not familiar, the Robotics Challenge is a competition in which the winning robot(s) will successfully carry out a set of tasks on a disaster simulation course. DARPA’s raising the bar with the course, requiring the robots to, among other things, drive a vehicle, climb a ladder, and identify and fix a leaky pipe. The winning team get $2 million and undoubtedly YouTube celebrity.

The competition is broken up into four tracks. Tracks A and D will build their own robot and develop their own software. But those who don’t qualify to get DARPA funding for their work in Track A will have to supply their own funding through Track D. Tracks B and C work similarly, except teams in these tracks will only develop software and use DARPA’s government funded equipment (GFE) – aka, the robot – as part of their platform.

The stairmaster was developed in collaboration with Boston Dynamics who, with their stock of rugged, can-do robots like Petman and Alpha Dog, have to be a favorite for the Challenge.

I’m really excited to see what solutions the world’s robotics developers unleash on the obstacle course. DARPA’s high-steppin’ robot in the video isn’t complete. A torso, arms, and a head will be added so entrants can climb that ladder and seal that pipe leak. The course is a seriously difficult challenge and most likely it’ll be a few years before a robot raises its arms – or arachnoid appendages – in victory. But one thing is clear, DARPA is serious about making that happen as soon as possible.

[image credits: DARPAtv via YouTube]
video credit: DARPAtv via YouTube]
images: DARPA
video: DARPA

Discussion — 14 Responses

  • Mike Ellis April 18, 2012 on 9:16 am

    Alone, or in pairs?

    • Peter Murray Mike Ellis April 18, 2012 on 12:13 pm

      Alone. DARPA wants a robot that can do it all.

  • Joe Nickence April 18, 2012 on 2:19 pm

    The speed of the robot going up the stairs was impressive. It’s time for Honda to step up it’s own program for Asimo.

    • BeholdersEye Joe Nickence April 19, 2012 on 12:19 pm

      It’s walking on the balls of the foot, could that be part of it? And using the wall as a guide, interesting.

  • BeholdersEye April 19, 2012 on 12:16 pm

    It looks like they installed the ballon/coffee beans for the grips. Stairs come in all types of steepness, can it auto adjust?

  • BeholdersEye April 19, 2012 on 12:32 pm

    The Petman must be a bad soldier, they are making it do pushups.

  • 8mismo April 24, 2012 on 1:25 pm

    Petman just keeps on truckin

  • sarfralogy April 27, 2012 on 6:16 pm

    DARPA seeks hybrid “system-on-a-chip” solution to GPS vulnerabilities http://bit.ly/IhZJku