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.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.