The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC) has begun and key teams have been announced.
Other tracks continue to be open for registration for participants.
Over the next two years, participants will compete to develop and test hardware and software for robots in response to disasters.
DARPA has selected and will provide funding for seven teams in Track A to develop new robotic systems containing both hardware and software.
The seven Track A teams include: Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, Drexel University, Raytheon, SCHAFT Inc., Virginia Tech, NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The agency also announced the 11 teams in Track B to develop software. Track B includes: Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories, RE2, University of Kansas, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, TRAC Labs, University of Washington, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Ben-Gurion University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and TORC Robotics.
Tracks A and B will receive funding.
Registration remains open in Track C for individuals and teams from around the world to compete without the need for hardware. Some in Track C may eventually qualify for funding.
“Anyone with the skills to develop the software needed to advance core robotic software capabilities can register and participate using the open-source DRC Simulator,” the agency said in a statement. “Expertise in software for robotic perception, planning, control and human-robot interface, and experience in physics-based games, models and simulation, as well as open-source code, will all be useful.”
The first DRC event, the Virtual Robotics Challenge, is scheduled for June 2013, and a qualifying round is planned to be held in the Simulator in May. Track C teams will compete against Track B teams.
Track D is an option for teams worldwide to develop both robotic hardware and software for disaster-response robots, but without DARPA funding. Track D participants are encouraged to develop robots of any form – not just humanoids.
In a related matter, the Simulator is now available in beta version 1.0 and will be improved by the Open Source Robotics Foundation. Once validated, the Simulator can be employed to test software.
“The DRC Simulator is going to be one of DARPA’s legacies to the robotics community,” said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. “One of DARPA’s goals for the Challenge is to catalyze robotics development across all fields so that we as a community end up with more capable, more affordable robots that are easier to operate. The value of a cloud-based simulator is that it gives talent from any location a common space to train, design, test and collaborate on ideas without the need for expensive hardware and prototyping. That opens the door to innovation.”
The competition will focus on robots to be used in humanitarian assistance in emergency responses, such as natural disasters. The DRC was inspired by the 50 men who risked their lives to prevent a nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant after the massive tsunami in 2011.
In addition, to the power plant crisis, other recent disasters cited by the agency include the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Chilean Copiapó mine collapse.
In December 2014, there will be a $2-million prize awarded to the team that best meets DARPA’s requirements.
To register for tracks C or D, click here.
In a related matter, Arati Prabhakar, the DARPA’s new director, said that national security capabilities, a differentiated technology base and a robust agency “are elements of DARPA's future success,” RobotXworld reported this week.
Edited by Braden Becker