Robots can be awesome (and more than a little creepy at times). DARPA is about to start up a new Grand Challenge that involves robots that can walk among other things. DARPA’s Dr. Gill Pratt recently revealed that the new challenge will involve builders competing to create a humanoid robot that can accomplish a specific and rather difficult set of tasks.
The contest will apparently focus towards bipedal designs that are able to navigate rough terrain and can be used for helping during industrial disasters. The robot will have to be able to navigate through a very specific set of obstacles. To start, the robot will have to be able to maneuver itself into, and then drive an open-frame vehicle such as a tractor to a building.
Once at the building the robot will have to get off the tractor, walk to a locked door, and unlock the door with the key. Once unlocked, the robot will have to move through the door and down a hall strewn with rubble and climb a ladder at the end of the hall. After reaching the top of the ladder, the robot will have to be able to turn off a simulated leaking pipe by turning a valve nearby and then replace a faulty pump to complete the exercise.
It’s not 100% clear if the robot will need to do all of these tasks back-to-back. Regardless, it all sounds incredibly complicated for robot that is supposed to be able to do all this with very little human interaction, other than a remote operator. DARPA also plans on controlling the communication layer, which may increase the need for robotic autonomy.
The guys at Robotics blog Hizook have much more to say on the topic, and think that Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN (shown in the video above) is a likely candidate platform for the bipedal robot to be used.