DARPA Robotics Challenge field competition

click to enlargeThis weekend (20-21 Dec) in far-south (and warm) Homestead Raceway, Florida the outdoor ‘field’ round of the DARPA Robotics Challenge [TTA 2 July, 22 June] will take place. Robots will win on their performance in disaster response situations–both man-made and natural. Robots will be measured on eight tasks to measure 1) performance in ‘human’ environments, especially degraded ones; 2) ability to use human tools from small to large and 3) usable by those skilled in disaster response who aren’t robotics experts. From the article, the observers will be ‘watching paint dry’ as robots currently perform at the level of a one-year-old, at best moving rather slowly as 30 minutes is allowed for each task, at worst falling a lot. But it’s understood that this establishes a Robot Baseline. Wonder if the researchers and brass will be taking bets on Chiron, Kaist, Valkerie, SCHAFT, THOR, and Robosimian. Final will be in 2014. Mettle and Metal (Armed With Science) Attendance is free and public–and also livestreamed. Information at the Robotics Challenge website.

Making robotics news is Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics, designer of one of the competitors, Atlas.  Atlas’ well-publicized stable mates largely mimic animals–BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat, Sand Flea–along with Atlas’ older human-form brother, PETMAN. NBC News wonders what Google’s intense and somewhat covert interest in robotics (nary a peep heard lately from past purchases Meka and Redwood Robotics) really means, but hasn’t answers. Why does search giant want to be ‘BigDog’ of automation?

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