The DARPA Robotics Challenge has selected its eight finalists for the 2014 finals. We have the details on all eight contestants in what many are calling the "Olympics" of robotics.
17 teams representing the finest minds in robotics the world has to offer put up their best effort to have their mechanical creations become the winner of DARPA’s $2 million prize, not to mention bragging rights. The DARPA Robotics Challenge trials tested the bots abilities to run heavy machinery, drive, clear debris, open doors, and manipulate valves and handles in an effort to see which kind of robot would be best suited for search and rescue operation in a disaster area.
Some teams have built their own robot, while other have chosen to write their own software for the Boston Dynamics ATLAS robot – five of which made the finals.
So far the reigning champion is the S-1 robot built by the Google owned Japanese company Schaft. Schaft’s robots’ unique high voltage liquid cooled motor gave it a solid advantage in speed and strength, making it the strongest robot in the competition. The 4’11 209 pound robot scored the highest and will be one to watch in the finals.
The Florida Institute’s for Human and Machine Cognition came in second with their ATLAS robot. The IHMC concentrated much of its focus on improving the kind of software these machines would use; particularly in the area of “object manipulation”. The ATLAS also showed great skill in the obstacle course round.
Carnegie Mellon’s Robot CHIMP (Carnegie Mellon’s Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform) came in third with its combination of simian looks and tracked transportation systems. Its 5’4, 400 pound frame can walk on all four tracked legs and then transform into a bipedal form that is very adept at turning valves and climbing.
Team MIT’s ATLAS HELIOS robot engaged a new user interface designed by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.
NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s ROBOSIMIAN design is supposed to maximize ability through its specialized form. It can use all four of its limbs to manipulate objects.
The next three finalists all used the ATLAS design.
Team TRAClabs Robot Atlas, which they are calling “Hercules”, showed that the Houston-based computer programming lab continues to be a front runner in robot programming.
Team WPI Worchester Polytechnic Institute Robot ATLAS-WARNER software focused on walking behaviors and robot perception. That’s probably why this was the only robot to successfully complete the driving challenge.
Team Trooper Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs Robot Atlas managed to squeak into the finals by virtue of its custom guidance software.
It won’t be until the end of 2014 until we find out which will be the last robot standing when DARPA’s Grand Challenge is complete.