Google's SCHAFT robot wins DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013
Tom Spendlove posted on December 27, 2013 |

The SCHAFT robot beat out five other teams in the Track A category to win the DARPA Robotics Challenge 2013 Trial held December 20 and 21, 2013. Google recently purchased SCHAFT as part of its secret robotics project.

In total four different tracks of robots competed in the challenge trial, with Track A being DARPA funded teams and Tracks B, C and D receiving smaller levels of funding and allow for different levels of participation. MIT, WPI, Virginia Tech and Carnegie Mellon are some of the most prominent collegiate teams that participated.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diaZFIUBMBQ

Eight tasks in total were set up to allow the robots to test the mobility, dexterity, manipulation, perception and operator control mechanisms of the robots. The goal of the challenge is to transform the field of robotics and move forward development of autonomous bots. The hope is that robots will be able to better aid us in hazardous conditions found in disaster zones.

The eight tasks are built to simulate the acts needed during a natural disaster. Operating a vehicle, navigating difficult terrain, climbing a ladder and clearing debris are the first four tasks. Tasks five through eight are door manipulation, removing an object from a wall, manipulating valves, and operating a hose.

Each task has a set of constraints, starting conditions and sub-tasks that can be completed. The Debris task, for instance, gives one point for removing five pieces of debris, a second point for moving five more pieces of debris and a third point for traveling through the doorway that is usable after the debris is cleared.

This 2013 trail set the baseline for the current state of robotics and will help DARPA to decide who to fund for the coming year. At the 2014 finals DARPA hopes that the robots will have what they call supervised or task-level autonomy. It is hoped that the human operator can give the robot a command like "open the door" and the robot will perform the task by itself, using programming and sensors to take into account any unexpected factors.

Google's acquisition of the SCHAFT robot is one of several that the search engine giant has made in the past year. The overall goal isn't yet clear but Google doesn't generally do things that won't result in large-scale commercial benefit.


http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/schaft-robot-in-a-field.jpg

This is one of a series of recent entries about Google and Amazon’s different approaches to advanced robotics.  Here are a few more articles you might want to read:

• Google's BigDog robot climbs and balances

• Amazon Prime Air - A Moonshot Project

• Google's SCHAFT robot wins DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013

• Amazon's Robotic Order Fulfillment


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