DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: Know Your Robots

All 25 robots in a single handy poster-size image

1 min read
DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: Know Your Robots

With 24 teams competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, it’s easy to lose track of things. Which team has the white ATLAS that is not IHMC or WPI-CMU? How many teams are from Germany? What’s the name of that Japanese robot that looks like a spaghetti of wires?

Confused already? Don’t worry, here’s something we made with our bare hands to make your life (and ours) easier: All of the DRC teams and their robots—along with some helpful specs—in one single handy poster-size image. Print it, read it, memorize it and you’ll be ready to watch the Finals.

The actual competition will happen on Friday and Saturday, but Evan and I will be posting stories and videos starting tomorrow (Thursday). Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates, and if you’re coming to Pomona, we’ll see you there!

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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