Darpa’s Robotic Gladiators Will Battle on This Disaster Course
DARPA, the Pentagon’s research wing, is turning to robots to respond alongside humans when there’s a natural or human-made disaster — an initiative that DARPA says was triggered by the 2011 earthquake in Japan that caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
At the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials Friday and Saturday at the Homestead Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., robot prototypes will be run through a challenge course consisting of eight tasks to evaluate robots’ perception, autonomous decision-making, mobility, dexterity and strength — all the qualities DARPA expects robots would need to work in disaster scenarios.
Speed, however, is not one of the qualities that will be tested. Robots will be given 30 minutes to perform each of the eight tasks once over the course of the two-day event, although DARPA expects that not all of the teams will be able to complete every task.
“We know the robots are slow and unsteady at this point—they’re much like a one-year-old human in terms of locomotion and grasping abilities and much farther behind that in brainpower,” said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager, in a statement.