The Darpa Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals are set to take place later this week in Pomona, California. Twenty-five of the best robotics teams from around the globe will go at it for a chance to win some big prizes and help drive the advancement of robotics and related technologies.
The final round of the DRC is a disaster. Not a disaster in the metaphorical sense, but quite literally a disaster. The robotics teams are competing against each other in a simulated disaster-response course. We’re talking rubble, debris, sharp corners, and heaps — everything that you would expect to find in a disaster, and everything that would pose a considerable challenge for a robot.
After all, a Roomba can be sidelined by a wayward broom. Leave an obstacle on the floor and you’re looking at a half-vacuumed room. Needless to say, a Roomba wouldn’t be very useful in a disaster situation, unless you count crumbs in the carpet a disaster. However the robots in the DRC final are much more sophisticated and significantly more capable than a vacuuming robot.
It’s not easy to navigate a disaster area for human beings, let alone robots. That’s why the Darpa Robotics Challenge brings out some of the most advanced robotics technologies in the world. The robots that are going to compete in the final will be equipped with state of the art software, sensors, and motion control capabilities.
The DRC Finals will put the robots through a series of physical challenges with the communication between human controllers and the robots getting worse and worse as the challenges progress.
DARPA had this to say about the competition:
“Technologies resulting from the DRC will transform the field of robotics and catapult forward development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in the hazardous, degraded conditions common in disaster zones.”
As if helping advance robotics isn’t incentive enough, there are some big cash prizes involved to motivate the 25 teams in the Finals. First place takes home $2 million, second place earns 1$ million, and third place will receive a $500,000 prize.