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.
To answer your second question first, NadineJ: Yes, that phrase is from the manufacturer. It's not exactly how I would word such a thing.
And you're right in that these robots don't all have to be humanoid to get the job done. Perhaps sometimes that is not the ideal design and hopefully engineers will make the right choice in those cases. Thanks for your comment.
Robots are often in humanoid form in order to be well received by the general public. But, do we still need that? If a non-humanoid form is more efficient, it should be used. Do we need robots to look like Iron Man in order to be acceptable? It's good to see at least two that aren't humanoid.
One quick question: is the phrase "act like any 19-year-old first responder" from the manufacturer?
These are all interesting designs from some of the brightest minds in robotics, and it seems that this type of technology is in demand and innovation is needed. While robots were deployed at Fukushima to help the recovery there, the latest report is that the technology is not working as expected and isn't as advanced at it needs to be yet. This competition should bolster those types of efforts; just depends on how long it will take to make an impact.
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