DARPA Robotics Challenge Stepping Stone to the Future?

DARPA Robotics Challenge

The DARPA Robotics Challenge recently came to a conclusion with the South Korean team winning the $2 million prize with their Transformer-like robot. The humanoid robot from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology had completed the obstacle course in the quickest time and showed off its biped to quadruped transformation. It was a contest where various invited teams bring in their robots to compete against each other by performing basic human tasks in an obstacle course. Could the DARPA Robotics Challenge be a stepping stone into the future?

The true intention of the challenge is to launch forward the development of robots that can assist in disaster situations that are determined to be too dangerous for humans to enter. An earthquake in Japan four years back had inspired the DARPA Robotics Challenge, because a nuclear plant had been struck and the people sent as a response team were exposed to the maximum amount of radiation a human can receive. The following three years gave birth to the robot competitions that would eventually lead to the passing weekend’s finals.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge went on for two days at Fairplex in Pomona, California. There were 23 teams invited to compete for the finals, but the China team was unable to make it due to problems with visas. The challenge consisted of eight tasks that the robots had to complete for time. Points were awarded for each task that was completed. The course consisted of driving a vehicle, then exiting the vehicle, followed by opening and walking through a door. It would then have to close a valve, drill a hole through a wall, unplug and then plug a cord into an outlet, and maneuver through rough terrain. The final task of the course was to climb a set of stairs.  No specific rules were set on how the robot can complete the task.

The feats of the robots showed that the DARPA Robotics Challenge is a stepping stone into the future. There were various times throughout the Challenge where the robots would fall, then the crowd would groan, and moments where they completed a task with cheers following right after. The winning robot amazed the crowd with its adaptability, showing a Transformer style of operation. It was able to switch from walking on two legs to becoming a four-wheeled vehicle. The victory was not only one for South Korea to celebrate, but the open door of possibility for an approach to creating adaptable robots.

The second place winner was awarded with $1 million and third place was awarded with $500 thousand. The competition drew in a large crowd of people who were curious about the development of robot technology. One registered nurse had commented she is excited for the future of robots. She said, “Robotics is the future. People who are now in wheelchairs might be able to regain some of their mobility and it would be a wonderful thing, so I’m enjoying being here today and seeing this challenge.”

A workshop is currently streaming live recapping the finals as well as competitors answering questions from the crowd.  The technologies demonstrated by the teams have shown that the DARPA Robotics Challenge is a stepping stone for future development of robots.

By Frank Grados


TIME – South Korean Team Wins DARPA Robotics Challenge

VB News – Korea’s Team KAIST wins the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge

Daily Bulletin – Robots’ mettle tested in final day of 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge

MIT Technology Review – A Transformer Wins DARPA’s Robotics Challenge

Photo Courtesy of Office of Naval Research’s Flickr Page Photo by John F. Williams – Creative Commons License