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Welcome to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

We're at the DRC Finals in Pomona, and here's your first look at the course

2 min read
Welcome to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals
Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

We’ve just arrived at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in Pomona, Calif. It’s the day before the Finals starts, and the Expo is setting up, teams are testing robots, and DARPA is making sure that the courses are ready to go. We’ll have a detailed post on the rules and course this evening, but the first thing we did was snap the pic above to give you a look at what it’s going to be like. Our first reaction? The overall course is shorter than we expected, and only as challenging as it needs to be: robots will have a real chance at getting through these tasks successfully, and that’s awesome.

According to the schedule that we just got, there will be a media briefing and tour tonight at 6 p.m. PDT The opening ceremony starts at 7 a.m. tomorrow, with the competition kicking off at 8 a.m. Every evening, there will be post-competition media briefings (we’ll be at those, of course), and the top three teams will be announced Saturday night around 7 p.m. (although we’ll likely know who the winners will be by Saturday afternoon). And on Sunday, there’s a DARPA post-finals workshop all day that we’ll be covering as well.

As far as today goes, here’s what you can expect from us: later today (or this evening), we’ll have posts on the course, tasks, and rules, as well as a post detailing all the best ways to stay up to date with the DRC Finals if you’re not going to be here in person, incuding online video streaming options. We’ll also have more pics, and probably an article or two on some especially cool things that we got a sneak peek of at the DRC expo.

Don’t forget, if you need some background on what to expect, we’ve got tons of information posted already:

And if there are things that you’re particularly interested in, questions you want us to ask the teams, or things that you heard about at the expo that you want us to check out for you, just leave a comment and we’ll get right to it.

[ DRC Finals ]

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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