Our Robotic Future
May 15, 2015 10:05 PM   Subscribe

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, sponsor of self-driving car competitions (one of the winning teams now works on Google's self driving car project) is now sponsoring robotics competitions.

Here are this year's contestants.

The challenge:
The robots will first have to drive a standard utility vehicle (designed for people) to get to the disaster site. Then perform all tasks on their own, such as find the knob, opening and going through doors, climb stairs, cut wholes in walls to gain access, close values and surmount at least one impediment undisclosed to the teams ahead of time.
posted by eye of newt (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about most of the other challengers, but I've seen Robosimian around at work, and it looks pretty amazing. I saw it in an electric golf-cart type of vehicle a couple weeks ago, and by the looks of it, it had climbed in on its own.
posted by chimaera at 10:46 PM on May 15, 2015

There is no possible way this can end badly.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 12:32 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Please tell me that DARPA's contest rules did not require cutting "wholes" in walls. Or closing "values" (valves)? I know, I know, pedantry. But has society fallen to the point where even DARPA can't be bothered to proofread?
posted by johnnyace at 1:00 AM on May 16, 2015

The 'wholes' 'values' misspellings come from the EETimes article.
posted by eye of newt at 1:41 AM on May 16, 2015

Hail Hydra!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:45 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

new friends! i like how most of them look ready to dance, too.
posted by f r i e n d b o t at 3:09 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

All the contestants in one page, if you don't feel like clicking through them one by one - the DARPA team pages also provide more detailed (and accurate) descriptions of the teams, and provide links to respective team websites.

Seeing all the robots in one page makes it easier to see which make use of a common platform, e.g. the THOR-based ones from Robotis, Seoul National University, UCLA (Team THOR), and Team Hector, or the the Atlas-based ones from University of Hong Kong, Team IHMC Robotics, Team TRACLabs, MIT, Team VIGIR, and Team WPI-CMU.

Virginia Tech is involved with three entries: Team Hector, Team VIGIR, and Team VALOR, which share software but each use different hardware. You can trace academic movement and collaboration from who uses what - THOR actually got its start at Virginia Tech, but in 2014, Dr. Dennis Hong and his robotics lab moved to UCLA. One of Dr. Hong's former Ph.D. students went to work at Robotis in South Korea (and has become somewhat of a media celebrity).

Atlas is made by Boston Dynamics, and was originally developed with DARPA funding. Google acquired the company in late 2014, which led to some trickiness regarding Boston Dynamics' obligations to DARPA.
posted by needled at 4:51 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's interesting how the aesthetics are so different. The Japanese ones all look like mini power rangers mega-zoid whatevers and US ones look like terminators. And the THOR-based ones just look so blocky and... robotic. I wonder how much is purely aesthetic versus functional concerns.
posted by ropeladder at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

> The Japanese ones all look like mini power rangers mega-zoid whatevers

I think there's a generational divide regarding the design of the Japanese robots - Hydra and Jaxon are both from Japan, constructed in 2015, and ... robotic-looking. HRP2+ and HRP-2 are dated 2002 and 2003, respectively, and do look like they popped out of Japanese mecha anime. The exception seems to be Aero DRC, dated 2015, but the team description says it's the product of a group of robot enthusiasts, and not the product of university research labs. So it appears functional concerns might be driving designs towards the blocky and robotic.

Personally I'd like to see more non-bipedal robots like the RoboSimian.
posted by needled at 8:01 AM on May 16, 2015

Team MIT's robot looks like it walks round waving its arms in the air going Well la-de-fucking-da.
posted by dudekiller at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Its arms are still tired from shoveling.
posted by maryr at 10:53 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

But what's with that pose? Either it's a floating demonbot with uncannily long arms to make sure fleeing children don't escape the Overlord's grasp, or somebody turned on the Karate Kid software.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 11:00 AM on May 16, 2015

I wonder how much is purely aesthetic versus functional concerns.

If you want to get funding, it's got to look badass. (See: F-35)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2015

HRP2+ and HRP-2 are dated 2002 and 2003, respectively, and do look like they popped out of Japanese mecha anime.

And a specific mecha anime, at that - HRP2+ is essentially plagiarized from Patlabor. Compare to a Shinohara Industries AV-98 Ingram.
posted by fifthrider at 12:12 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here are some videos:
Tartan Rescue
AIST_NEDO, and a creepy humanoid robot
Grit (oops!)
Boston Dynamics Atlas used by several teams with their own programming
IHMC Robotics
MIT Helios (Atlas)
A JSK 2012 robot getting kicked
NimbRo Momaro
SNU THORMANG (and some other Korean robots)
Hercules (Atlas) (Get the Android/Apple app!)
Leo (Atlas) (2013 version)
THOR with a discussion of upcoming ESCHER
Florian (Atlas unpacking)
Warner (Atlas)

My apologies to the teams where I couldn't find a video.
posted by eye of newt at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

It turns out the winner of the DARPA Robotics Challenge trials in December 2013 will not even be in the finals. Schaft dominated the competition at the trials, but had been acquired by Google prior to the trials. Subsequently Google withdrew Schaft from the challenge.

Shaft used HRP-2 as a starting point, but it ended up with something quite different-looking.
posted by needled at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2015

Team KAIST's DRC-Hubo wins the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Team IHMC came in second, while CMU's Team Tartan Rescue came in third. Both KAIST and CMU used robots they developed themselves, while IHMC used Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot.
posted by needled at 5:39 AM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's a video of the winning robot run.

Of course, everyone wants to see the bloopers.
posted by eye of newt at 8:56 AM on June 7, 2015

The KAIST robot adopted an interesting approach, with wheels on its "knees" and rolling around in a kneeling position most of the time. It would straighten up for bipedal motion when going up stairs or when it needed extra height to meet some of the challenges. This seems to have allowed it to avoid falling down, as I don't think I see it in the blooper video.
posted by needled at 11:04 AM on June 7, 2015

Also, great coverage of the DARPA challenge in IEEE Spectrum's Automaton blog. The compilation of robots falling down comes from this blog.
posted by needled at 11:23 AM on June 7, 2015

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