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DARPA sets a final date for their robotic challenge

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Saturday afternoon DARPA(Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) announced that the finals of their robotics challenge will be held the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif on June 5&6, 2015. This is a 6 month extension past the original date that had the final round of the challenge to be held in December of this year. The reason for this extension is that DARPA is stepping up the rules and want the participants to have time to comply with these new rules.

"The trials were much more successful than we had expected," said Gill Pratt, DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) program director in a conference call. Consequently, DARPA plans to significantly "raise the bar" by increasing the difficulty of the tasks and further degrading the harshness of the environment.

Among these new restrictions are that all robot should be full self contained units meaning no power cords, fall arrestors or wired communication tethers. Human team members will not be able to rush out and assist their robots when they get stuck the way they did during the trails in December of 2013. All of the tests in the finals will have a 1 hour time limit which is a big reduction from the 4 hours that some of the robots were taking to complete their tasks in the trials. The last of these new rules is that human communication to the robots will be reduced meaning that the groups boost the programming and learning capabilities of their robots.

“For the first time, teams will be empowered to exploit the cloud and crowd-augmented robotics, two highly promising research areas that allow onsite operators to leverage remote data, computing and human resources,” Mr. Pratt stated on DARPA's website.

In early April of 2012 DARPA first announced that they in October of 2012 they would be launching a robotics challenge. The purpose of this would be find a robot capable of preforming complex task in hostile environments after natural of man-made disasters. One of the biggest reasons that made it apparent there was a need for such a competition was the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster that took place in Japan in 2011.

In December of 2013 DAPRA held trails where they picked 11 teams that would receive further funding and compete in the finals. These trails were made up of 8 tasks consisting of turning a valve, opening doors, climbing ladders, navigating debris, carrying and hooking up a hose, cutting a hole in a wall, removing debris and driving a car.

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