DARPA Robot Finals

Japanese robot crushes rivals at DARPA challenge

Researchers advance state of the art in humanoid robot competition

DARPA Robot Finals

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The tasks were intended to test the robots' mobility, dexterity, perception and operator control mechanisms.

The goal of the challenge is to push robotics technology to become more autonomous, enabling the machines to make decisions on how best to move around obstacles and how to get to where they need to be.

Near the end of the day on Saturday, Pratt said he was pleased with the progress the researchers have made.

"Things are going extremely well," he said after noting that the challenge is something of a base line for humanoid robotics work. "They are a little bit beyond where I'd expected them to be. The state of the art is better, but only by a little bit."

Pratt also said he was pleased with the stability of the software, seeing few machines malfunction during the challenge.

DARPA officials expected the driving task to pose the toughest challenge. Few teams completed the course, including the Japanese team.

For next year's final challenge, Pratt said instead of facing eight tasks spread out over two days, the teams will face a disaster situation, such as a fire or a gas leak. The robots will be given a set of tools and a series of ladders, doors, cars and valves that they must use to handle the situation.

The next generation of robots also will need to carry their own battery packs, won't be tethered for safety and will have wireless communication systems with their remote controllers.

"The robots will need to work more independently," Pratt said. "I would like to restrain the communications between the robots and the operators. I want to force the teams to add more capability to the robots' computers so they're able to adapt to situations in real time."

Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics built the Atlas robot, which many of the teams used and then built their own software to run the machine. Other teams built both the hardware and software, but the six-foot, 330-pound humanoid Atlas robot was a key player at the competition.

Joe Bondaryk, project manager with Boston Dynamics, told Computerworld on Friday that the company already is looking to create a next-generation Atlas robot that will be used in the final phase of the challenge.

He said the company plans to makes each of the robot's arms 10 pounds lighter, while possibly adding another wrist joint. The company also is working on a battery that would enable Atlas to work for an hour without being attached to a power source.

This article, Japanese robot crushes rivals at DARPA challenge, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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