DARPA seeks humanoid robots for XPrize-type contest

Challenge to award up to $34 million in prize money to robotic disaster relief winners.

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by Design Engineering Staff

In a move plucked straight from a Hollywood script, the “mad scientist” wing of the U.S. Defense Department, DARPA, announced an XPrize-type contest that offers a $2 million prize to whomever creates a humanoid robot capable of autonomously carrying out disaster recovery missions.

Officially, DARPA’s Robotics Challenge will launch in October 2012. According to the agency, competing teams will be expected to create robots capable of successfully navigating a series of staged disaster-response scenarios. Full details of the contest are available on DARPA’s web site but the full list of tasks include:

  • 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.

In addition to driving a car and breaking through walls, unofficially, robots may be expected to don sunglasses, time travel and seek out mother of future human rebel leader.

To answer questions regarding the Robotics Challenge, DARPA will hold a virtual Proposers’ Day workshop on April 16, 2012, to explain the mechanics of the challenge and encourage collaborative potential contestants.