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DARPA Robotics Challenge Update

Dr. Gill Pratt gives a keynote at IROS on the DARPA Robotics Challenge, including new video of ATLAS

2 min read
DARPA Robotics Challenge Update

The Thursday plenary lecture at IROS was given by Dr. Gill Pratt, DARPA manager for a variety of robotics programs, including the DARPA Robotics Challenge. We interviewed Dr. Pratt back in April shortly after the challenge was announced, but we now have some updated info on the challenge, along with some brand new video of ATLAS in action.

Here's the latest event sequence that participants (i.e. robots) in the challenge will have to perform:


The six humanoid robots that DARPA will be furnishing (for free!) to the software teams will of course be based on the PETMAN/ATLAS platforms from Boston Dynamics:

It's important to remember that these robots will have a power tether; they'll likely come with an onboard electrical hydraulic pump, with electrical power and coolant being fed to them from a golf cart or Bobcat. The total weight of the robot itself should come out to between 200 and 250 pounds. And no DARPA robotics presentation would be complete without some awesome new video: our apologies for the quality (it's a video of a video), but it's worth it:


In addition to the hardware, DARPA is also funding a software simulator through OSRF. We found out last week that DARPA has committed to 2.5 years and $6.44 million, which the goal of taking a "major leap forward in simulation." OSRF has its work cut out for it, since things are about to kick off just within the next week or so. Here's the schedule:


Specifically, the DRC Kickoff meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 24 at 9AM US Eastern Time. We'll hear from dignitaries from both the United States and Japan as well as from OSRF and Boston Dynamics. The Track A and Track B teams (hardware and software funded) will be announced and will give presentations, and registration will open for Track C, which is how you can get involved in the DRC.

DARPA is encouraging as many teams as possible (especially international teams) to participate in the non-funded C and D Tracks, and remember, if your team wins the Virtual Disaster Response Challenge in Track C, you can steal one of the robots away from an already funded team to continue on to the physical challenge competition. Also, Dr. Pratt made it clear that just because this is a DARPA sponsored challenge does not mean that DARPA will control all of your work: participating teams don't give up any intellectual property and may spend any prize money they get however they want.

The official DARPA Robotics Challenge website, which hasn't really launched yet, can be found at the link below. Check back on October 24 for all the rest of the details.

[ DARPA Robotics Challenge ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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