The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) continues its experiments in robotics, as robots seem to have a bright future in combat. Last month, a robotic "cheetah" set a new record for robotic speed, nearly 1/3 faster than past records, but this new robot is remarkable not for its speed, but for its human-like ability to climb stairs.
The stair-climbing robot was built by Boston Dynamics, the same company that built the "cheetah." It's featured in a DARPA video as an example of the capabilities that entries om DARPA's robotics challenge, scheduled for this October, will be expected to demonstrate.
The challenge carries with it a $2 million prize, to the team that can complete a series of tasks with their "creations." The goal of the challenge, said DARPA, is to “push the state-of-the-art in robotics beyond today’s capabilities in support of the DoD’s disaster recovery mission.”
The DARPA robotics challenge is open to universities and businesses of all sizes, including, naturally, Boston Dynamics.
The second half of the video shows an earlier Boston Dynamics robot, PETMAN, In that part of the video, PETMAN is shown using a treadmill and doing push-ups. According to the information uploaded with the video, Boston Dynamics is planning to enter a robot that combines the capabilities of PETMAN with those of its stair climbing robot.
The DARPA robotics challenge is supposed to develop a "disaster response robot." According to the information available on the challenge, the following tests are "likely" (but not certain) for the actual challenge.
- 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 tool to break through a concrete panel.
- Locate and close a valve near a leaking pipe.
- Replace a component such as a cooling pump.
Watch the DARPA video, in the sidebar.