There are many, many niceties involved in keeping stable while standing and walking that we don’t even think about. It is one of the reasons why infants have so much trouble staying upright.
The contest is expected to ask the robots to do tasks that we wouldn’t find the least bit difficult: drive cars, open doors, walk over uneven ground, and do some basic repair work that demonstrates fine motor control. Basically, they are modeling the challenges on what might happen in an industrial disaster that humans shouldn’t go into.
This will be the third contest that DARPA runs, the previous three being related to self-driving cars. Those were wildly successful, and the tech has gotten to the point that we might have consumer self-driving cars in half a decade.
And the contest could give small robotics firms a chance to shine. While only 12 teams will receive funding for the project, unfunded teams are allowed to enter the competition. And if the unpaid teams do better than the paid ones, well, funding might switch hands. Kent Massey, the director of advanced programs at HDT Robotics, noted that in the 2005 contest one of the finalist teams were just a couple of guys from an insurance company. And yet they challenged the big names like Stanford and Carnegie Mellon.
Of course, this isn’t a simple challenge. This will tax even the greatest of robotics firms. Very few have actually managed to make humanoid robots capable of walking, much less opening doors and fixing pipes. It will be quite a while before we see whether DARPA’s incentives are enough to drive the rapid development of the technology.
Wired Photo by : Boston Dynamics