The Drexel team aims for its horse in the race, Hubo, to act like any 19-year-old first responder or Marine in its ability to drive cars, climb ladders, break walls with tools, and walk over rough terrain, Paul Oh, professor at Drexel's Mechanical Engineering Department and director of the Drexel Autonomous Systems Lab, told us. “Cognitively this means equipping Hubo with algorithms to do these tasks without much human intervention,” he said.
The skills the team assigns to Hubo also will inform the design of these robots not only by today’s researchers, but also by engineering students who can learn from this experience when they begin developing robots themselves, Oh added. “Having Hubo drive cars, operate tools, and climb ladders enables Drexel's world-leading experts to showcase the state-of-the-art,” he said. “This not only teaches stakeholders in government and industry, but it also educates today's students who will be tomorrow's robot engineers. Events like car driving have not been tackled before and thus present a well-defined goal to learn what is possible.”
Challenge participants are currently readying for a site visit by DARPA scheduled for this summer. In December, the robots will participate in their first physical challenge, which will require them to do the following:
Drive a utility vehicle at the site;
Travel dismounted across rubble;
Remove debris blocking an entryway;
Open a door and enter a building;
Climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway;
Use a power tool to break through a barrier;
Locate and close a valve near a leaking pipe;
Attach a connector such as a wire harness or fire hose.
The highest performing teams will receive continued funding from DARPA to go on to the final challenge event in December 2014.
I completely agree with you about human-like robots not being necessary for working in human-design spaces. I also think that goes for how human-like they must be in looks or operation: Some people like that similarity to humans, but some, like me, not only don't need it but find the uncanny valley effect horrific. OTOH, a lot of work has been done to help robots and humans communicate better so they can work together safely and productively. One of those things is designing robot hands to work more like ours for a number of reasons: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=260644
It's true that clear communication and comprehension are important. Acronyms and colloquialisms can be confusing.
Back to the robots...I don't agree that robots' "perceptions and movements should be as human as possible" in order to work in a space designed for humans. Observing a cat or dog in a new space demonstrates that non-humans can navigate spaces created for humans as well as, or better than, people.
I find that using clear, widely-understood meanings for terms makes written, non-duplex communication much easier (spoken, full-duplex communication, like in a phone or F2F conversation, is of course usually a lot clearer since multiple, instant iterations are possible when needed). I also find that precision and accuracy are important in all communications.
Nadine, thanks for the comment. I interpreted, "At the end of the day, all robots are bio-mimics. Humans included." to mean what its grammar says, which is that humans are bio-mimics. It's hard to interpret that in some other way. In any case, I do agree about more precise writing and close reading.
Nadine, yes I was responding to your comment. I agree that biomimicry doesn't exclude humans: that seems obvious. I've studied biomimicry in robotics, and saying all robots are biomimics isn't accurate in that area, although it may be elsewhere. But it's such a general statement that I don't see its usefulness from robotics engineering standpoint. And saying humans are biomimics doesn't make sense to me at all, since we are biological systems. In any case, my comments specifically about biomimicry in robotics stand.
Biomimicry in robotics, at least, doesn't mean generally resembling; it means something very specific. It refers to studying particular biological systems to see how they work, and translating their neurological, muscular, skeletal, etc systems--structures and/or functions-- into mechanical and/or electronic analogs. This is much more recent than the fundamental research type of approach that goes more like: what would happen if we made a robot with three legs vs six and used XYZ actuation types. Boston Dynamics, for example, was one of the very early pioneers in patterning robots after specific animals.
I suppose in looking at the report again, Ann, I misspoke in my comment. But it's interesting to see the struggles Japan had using these type of robots and hopefully this can inform future design and development. The DARPA work certainly should go a long way to improving the technology as well.
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