New Robot Contests Feature Free Trips, $1 Million, and $5 Million in Prizes

These newly announced robot competitions have some pretty impressive awards

3 min read
New Robot Contests Feature Free Trips, $1 Million, and $5 Million in Prizes

Want a free trip to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals? Or, maybe ever so slightly more exciting, a million dollars? Or, maybe ever so slightly more exciting than that, your share of 5 million dollars? Here’s how you can win all of these things.

Robots4Us is a competition sponsored by DARPA where the winner gets an all expenses paid trip to the DRC Finals in California this June. Luckily, you don’t have to teach a big expensive robot to climb a ladder, drive a car, or use power tools. Instead, all you have to do is 1.) be a high school student (9th to 12th grade) and b.) make a video:

Create a 2- to 3-minute video that shows the kind of robot-assisted society you’d like to see in the years ahead.

Videos should consider both current and anticipated advances in robotics technologies and address the implications of those advances for individuals, workplaces, and communities, as well as for national security and the ideals upon which American society is built. In particular they should address the choices we will face as the nation and the world strive to reap the benefits of the robotics revolution while minimizing the potential for harm.

Videos will be judged on clarity of communication, your vision for a robot-assisted society, your originality and expressiveness, and the technical quality of your vid.

Five winners will be selected; you can team up with two of your friends, but if you do, you’ll have to rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock to see who actually gets to go. Only one parent or guardian, too. Winners get an all expenses paid trip to the DRC Finals, which is pretty awesome. Heck, you’ll probably get a better hotel room than we do.

The contest is open now, and closes on Wednesday, April 1, at midnight.

[ Robots4Us ]

After the success of the Drones for Good competition, the United Arab Emirates is following it up with a new Robots for Good competition, with a US $1 million prize:

The competition “encourages innovation that benefits humanity. It focuses on three areas: education, healthcare and social services. Any solution can win; from hardware to software and any combination in between.” 

Rather broad at this point, we know, but there will be more information coming soon. You can compete in three different categories, including education, healthcare, and social services, and they’re looking for practical, working examples of robots doing good.

[ Robotics for Good ]

Not to be outdone, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has bestowed his patronage (and $5 million) upon the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC):

Organized by Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, the overall objective of this challenge is to advance the state of the robotics industry and to build better-designed robots. Because the challenge is performance based, teams from around the world will demonstrate their abilities to produce advanced robots in a highly competitive team based environment. 

The competition will include an arena designed to develop aerial and ground vehicles capable of executing tasks in complex, dynamic environments. The challenge will be to create a vehicle that can complete tasks in a simulated disaster response scenario. It will involve the collaboration of a group of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) in a changing environment that requires the robots to carry out a series of tasks using autonomous navigation and environmental interactions.

The competition website goes on to point out that “robotic competitions in the past few decades have been a catalyst that has accelerated the rate of technological advancements in the field of robotics and autonomous systems,” which we wholeheartedly agree with. You’ll have to wait a bit to take part in this one, though: call for proposals opens in May, proposals are due in September, and the first competition will take place in November of 2016


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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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