Robot Funded by Google Dominated DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013

2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge

A robot funded by Google dominated the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013, winning 27 of a possible 32 points over eight tasks. The trials are part of a global effort to develop and build robots that can be used to help victims after a disaster. With this goal in mind, the majority of the entrants were humanoid machines and the tasks ranged from walking through difficult terrain, drilling through walls and driving cars. The entrant funded by Google, built by the Japanese Team SCHAFT, handily completed all the trials presented, winning “best in task” for ladder climbing, rough terrain navigating, debris clearing and hose handling. NASA’s Valkyrie was surprisingly unable to score a single point throughout the trials.

Google’s victory comes on the heels of its acquisition of eight robotics companies from around the world, including SCHAFT from Japan and most recently the American company Boston Dynamics, maker of the BigDog and Atlas robots. With the intention of becoming a major player in the robotics scene itself, Google is accomplishing goals at a fine pace. Although the robot funded by Google dominated at DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 is intended for disaster applications, the hardware and software knowledge gained in the trials can be applied to many different machines, as seen with the building of LittleDog, a miniaturized version of BigDog that may one day crawl through rubble to rescue trapped civilians and sniff for explosives.

Although all of the robots on display are very advanced, spectators at the DARPA challenge mostly watched handlers reset machines after they got stuck or waited for robots to execute actions or simply fall over. The Google-funded robot that dominated DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 was the work of Team SCHAFT, hailing from Japan and running both custom hardware and software. The humanoid HRP-2 runs a custom software that operates its limbs and reads data from its various sensors, and all of the parts are custom made in house. There were only eight slots available for teams to advance to the next round of challenges slated to take place in late 2014, meaning that half of the 15 competing teams were eliminated. The finalists are comprised of companies from around the world, some fielding new machines and custom software, while others only wrote new software to guide existing Boston Dynamics Atlas robots through the DARPA challenges. Of the top five qualifiers, four are running custom machines, with the last four places rounded out by teams running customized Atlas software.

These tests are intended to show that it is possible to build machines that can spare humans from having to be sent  into dangerous places. That a robot funded by Google dominated DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 is confirmation of what onlookers could plainly see during the test: although there is potential in these machines, there is still a long way to go. The information gleaned from these tests will be used to make machines that are smarter, faster and less likely to fall on their face when they try to rescue people from a burning building.

By Daniel O’Brien


The Verge
Global Post
International Business Times

5 Responses to "Robot Funded by Google Dominated DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013"

  1. stevie   December 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm


    Although NASA’s VAlkyrie team scored 0 points, NASA’s JPL team, the folks who build our Mars rovers, scored in top third. Now this might mean we’d better get those japs to build the next mars probe but then again, maybe this competition was actually hard and cutting edge. DARPA is a gov’t agency btw.

    Here are the full results for those interested,

    Team SCHAFT (SCHAFT Inc.): 27 points
    Team IHMC Robotics (Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition): 20 points
    Team Tartan Rescue (Carnegie Mellon University and National Robotics Engineering Center): 18 points
    Team MIT (MIT): 16 points
    Team RoboSimian (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory): 14 points
    Team TRACLabs (TRACLabs, Inc.): 11 points
    Team WRECS (Worcester Polytechnic Institute): 11 points
    Team Trooper (Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs): 9 points
    Team THOR (Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory): 8 points
    Team KAIST (Rainbow Co.): 8 points
    Team ViGIR (TORC Robotics): 8 points
    Team HKU (University of Hong Kong): 3 points
    Team DRC-Hubo (Drexel University): 3 points
    Team Chiron (Kairos Autonomi): 0 points
    Team Mojavaton (Mojavaton, LLC): 0 points
    NASA-JSC Team Valkyrie (NASA Johnson Space Center): 0 points

  2. Horace Klein   December 24, 2013 at 6:48 am

    NASA record of failure? You mean like Mars landings and space stations and moon landings and probes launched 35 years ago that are past the edge of the solar system and still going? NASA has the most amazing record of success in human history.

    Healthcare? How about Medicare, or the VA. They are far more effective than private healthcare. Look at any poll on healthcare and the ranking is:

    Private Insurance.

    Then there is the US Military. That’s a government failure too, right? Or maybe not….

    Where are these nimrods coming from???

  3. David   December 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    “NASA’s Valkyrie was surprisingly unable to score a single point throughout the trials”
    How is that surprising? Few institutions in history have a bigger record of failure than NASA.

  4. Jeff Rey   December 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    So the elephant in the room is,” NASA’s Valkyrie was surprisingly unable to score a single point throughout the trials.” Just one more example of how government will never, ever, be able to compete with the free market…Healthcare anyone?

  5. norman vincent gaddy   December 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    If these are the Robots that are on display, How far have they really advanced??

    My guess is this is old tech..


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