DARPA’s New Robot Conquers Stairs

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

Peter Murray
Peter Murrayhttp://www.amazon.com/Peter-Murray/e/B004J3ONVQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.
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