Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) develops new and cool technology for the defense forces of United States. It is a U.S government agency which backs up new, innovative ideas and improves the life of all.
DARPA Incredible Sows Seeds for Humanoid Robots
This time DARPA has brought humanoid robots. The type of robots that we picture when we hear that term is two-legged, walking, thinking machines.
Idea of Humanoid Robots:
In 2011, there was an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. This caused a meltdown at the Fukishima nuclear power plant. The workers of this plant had to save their lives; therefore they escaped without shutting down the plant. This incident got DARPA thinking. They thought what if in such situations people do not have to risk their lives and let robots do all the risky work.
DARPA’s Robotics Challenge:
DARPA declared a competition, open to all universities, institutes, companies or individuals. DARPA prepared eights tasks; the robot has to drive a vehicle to the plant and park it after stopping. Then it had to get out of the vehicle. Walk towards the plant doorway open it and walk through. Close the valve by rotating it once. It should then be able to pick up a drill and cut a hole big enough on a sheetrock for a person to escape. It then has to climb over a room full of rubble, climb a metal staircase for exit and a surprise task.
The surprise task was not same for all days. For example on the first day the robot had to pull down a lever in a fuse box and on the second day it had to pull the power cord from the socket and plug into the socket next to it.
Tougher Rules for the Finals:
The trials of DARPA Robotics Challenge were held in 2013. In the trials the robots presented had wires coming out of them which connected them to their human operators. They had belts in the trials therefore the chances of falling and being smashed was minimized. And each task had to be completed in thirty minutes. The finals of the DARPA’s Robotics Challenge brought with it tougher rules. In the finals, no power cords, wires or harnesses were allowed. Instead of four hours, only one hour was allotted for the robots to complete all eight tasks. Once the robots enter the plant the communication between the robot and the human operator would be made weak by DARPA to see the thinking capability of the robots.
Speed was not the Goal:
All in all twenty-five teams were selected for the finals of Robotic Challenge. The teams were from Italy, Korea, Germany, Japan, China and Hong Kong. The appearance of the robots was different from each other. Most of the entries had humanoid robots while some looked like centaurs. The robots were moving were slowly, computing their move. The speed was not the point of emphasis; the main emphasis was on the completion of the tasks without failure.
Every Technology has Slow and Crude Start:
Many robots fell over during the finals of DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. The robot created by MIT also fell while it was getting out of the vehicle. Russ Tendrake, MIT’s Leader said that the robot fell due to a simple operator mistake.
The crowd was big, unexpectedly. It was very supportive and cheered with great enthusiasm. Gill Pratt of DARPA who ran the Robotics Challenge talked about the crowd and said the way the crowd showed up was much unexpected.
The advancement in technology is phenomenal. 10 years ago a man could not think about building a humanoid robot but now from 2011 to 2013 people not only created humanoid robots but also brought great innovation in them. DARPA has once again sowed the seats of another invention and now after the end of this competition taken a step back to see what more will the coming years bring in the field of humanoid robotics.