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Tech pit crews prep for robot speedway showdown

December 20, 2013 07:21 AM ET

The teams of researchers are hoping to develop humanold robots, some of which are six-feet-tall and weigh 330 pounds, that have the ability to go into an area or a building damaged in a disaster, locate injured people, turn off valves or open vents in an attempt to contain damage.

At this point in the development of humanoid rescue robots, the machines are in their mechanical infancy, Pratt said.

"This time you won't see robots racing to the rescue," he said. "You'll see them moving deliberately to the rescue."

The biggest challenge, at least for DeDonato's WPI team was working with the robot they were given.

Boston Dynamics, which was just acquired last week by Google, built the two-legged Atlas robot that is being used by many teams in the challenge. Some teams are building their own hardware and software, but for teams like DeDonato's, it's all about building the smarts for the robot.

"The biggest challenge is getting to know the hardware, and everything has to be kept simple," he told Computerworld. "We had wild ideas when we first got [Atlas] but we need to work in the time constraints... And the software guys have the most fun because we take the hardware and make it do something. Software is really where we're going to be cutting edge."

This week's challenge is part of a multi-year competition that's divided into three phases. The event is the second phase. The final phase is set for late in 2014. The winner will receive a $2 million prize.

This article, Tech pit crews prep for robot speedway showdown, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter @sgaudin, on or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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