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November 17, 2010

Robot Race Wins University of Michigan $750,000



Who knew there was so much money in robots?

Apparently if you win the MAGIC competition, you win $750,000 sweet cakes. Or, US dollars, as most people call them.

MAGIC, which is an acronym for the “Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge” is an international competition designed to find the smartest, self-thinking robot.

While the initial competition was fielded by 23 teams, it was the University of Michigan students that took the prize. Their 14 autonomous robots won the $750,000 prize sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and its Australian counterpart.

The competition took place in stages over more than two years and was open to both industry and academic entrants. The purpose of MAGIC was to try and highlight and encourage some of the unmanned technologies that are emerging – and all the better to publicize the potential military applications therein.

According to the University of Michigan’s team advisor, Edwin Olson (an academic professor and the department of electrical engineering and computer science), "Behind the robots was an amazing team of students who spent countless hours not only building, programming, and testing, but also dealing with the formidable logistical challenges of putting everything together and then shipping it 10,000 miles away," said U-M team adviser Edwin Olson, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

He added, "MAGIC 2010 gave us the chance to show that our research translates to the real world. Coming home with a check? That's an awfully nice bonus."

I’ll say -- $750,000 smackaroos for a robot army?!

The prize money aside, the competition truly had a more altruistic purpose.

"While remote-controlled robots are being deployed in operational areas, we need smart, intelligent and fully autonomous systems that can take over from humans in conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions," said Greg Combet, Australian minister for defense personnel, material and science. The ultimate aim is to make these operations much safer for our military personnel, leaving the robots to carry out the dirty and dangerous work."

The competition was overall helpful and altruistic. And the best of all? No robots were harmed during the race.


Erin Monda recently graduated from W.C.S.U. with a degree in professional writing. She primarily writes about network technologies, including cloud computing, virtualization and network optimization, however she also has a focus on E911 technologies and legislation.

Edited by Erin Monda


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