Carnegie Mellon University-National Robotics Engineering Center

CMU-NREC proposed to develop the CHIMP (CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform) robot for executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments. CHIMP will have near-human form factor, work-envelope, strength and dexterity to work effectively in such environments, yet avoid the need for complex control by maintaining static rather than dynamic stability.

NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

NASA-JPL proposed to build RoboSimian, a simian-inspired, limbed robot that will use deliberate and stable operations to complete challenging tasks under supervised teleoperation. The team will employ design methods, system elements and software algorithms that have already been successfully demonstrated in JPL’s existing robots. RoboSimian will use its four general-purpose limbs and hands, capable of both mobility and manipulation, to achieve passively stable stances, create multi-point anchored connections to supports such as ladders, railings and stair treads, and brace itself during forceful manipulation operations.


Raytheon proposed to construct Guardian, a new, self-powered, lightweight, robust, dexterous humanoid robot that will build on the team’s experience with human-scale exoskeletons. The Guardian robot will expand its Exoskeleton (XOS) concept, introducing innovative technologies such as large range of motion, high specific torque/power actuators, and a rapidly modulated fluid supply for overall power efficiency.

NASA-Johnson Space Center

NASA Johnson Space Center proposed to develop a next-generation humanoid robot and control paradigm capable of performing dynamic, dexterous, and perception-intensive tasks in a variety of scenarios. NASA JSC’s development approach will apply successful practices that have been used to develop multiple generations of Robonaut and related technologies in collaboration with academic, commercial, and other government partners.


SCHAFT Inc. proposed a bipedal robot based on mature hardware and software designed for its existing HRP-2 robot. SCHAFT will create an Intelligent Robot Kernel in which it will combine the necessary software modules for recognition, planning, motion generation, motion control, and a user interface. The group will divide into three teams to execute the tasks: hardware design, software integration, and scenario testing.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech proposed to develop THOR, a Tactical Hazardous Operations Robot, which will be state-of-the-art, light, agile, and resilient with perception, planning and human interface technology that infers a human operator’s intent, allowing seamless, intuitive control across the autonomy spectrum. The team will emphasize three essential themes in developing THOR: hardware resilience, robust autonomy, and intuitive operation.

Boston Dynamics

The Boston Dynamics robot simulator.

Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics’ robot.

Drexel University

Drexel University’s design focuses on a mature, open-architecture, bipedal robot called Hubo. Each member on Drexel’s team will be equipped with a stock Hubo, a complete, full-sized humanoid. This infrastructure will catalyze a multi-university effort to “hit the ground running” and successfully address all anticipated DRC events in a “program-test-perfect” model.



Humanoid Robots To Save People In The Most Dangerous Disaster Zones

A new challenge from DARPA—the military’s mad science division—is offering $2 million for a robot that resembles a human and can save real humans’ lives.

Today’s disaster robots are small creatures, resembling insects and matchboxes more than people. Since they’re so tiny, these bots can investigate disaster zones and report back to humans, but they can’t do much more than that. Tomorrow’s disaster robots? They’ll be humanoid superheroes, driving around through rubble in utility vehicles, breaking down doors, attaching fire hoses, climbing ladders, drilling through barriers with power tools, and closing valves near leaky pipes.

That’s the vision of DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s advanced research agency. After putting out a call earlier this year for its Robotics Challenge, which asks entrants to create robots that "can use standard tools and equipment commonly available in human environments, ranging from hand tools to vehicles," DARPA followed up this week with details, and images of robots created by organizations that have already signed on to compete for the $2 million prize. Think about how useful an advanced robot could be in situations like Japan’s Fukushima disaster—traversing through rubble to close leaky valves—and you have an idea of why this is so important.

The competition entrants, pictured in the slideshow above (captions courtesy of DARPA), have the potential to do that. DARPA will put them through the wringer in December 2013, testing the robots to see if they can perform the tasks listed previously (climbing ladders, closing valves, etc.) before a final challenge in 2014. The robots don’t need to be autonomous, but those that can operate without a human master will be scored higher.

A second piece of the competition challenges organizations that can’t necessarily build their own bot to create software that can control a humanoid robot built by Boston Dynamics. You can get an idea of what Boston Dynamics robots are capable of in the video here, which depicts a bot named Pet-Proto.

DARPA is known for its out-there projects, including cybernetic binoculars, a human body on a chip, a biofuel cell that lives inside a snail, three autonomous vehicle competitions (starting in 2004) and going further back in time, ARPANET, also known as the predecessor to the Internet.

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