Robots take a spill in the DARPA Challenge

All credit to DARPA – the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – for making this compilation of failures in its annual challenge – the first to have competing robots untethered (hence the instability on their feet some showed).

As DARPA says, it “is an agency that takes high risks in pursuit of great rewards. This video is a celebration of risk. Thank you to all of the teams that participated in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. Keep on taking risks”.

The challenge was inspired by the crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan that followed the 2011 tsunami. If robots could’ve vented the explosive hydrogen gas building up, it would’ve reduced risk to humans. (See Robots to the Rescue)

But the technology was not (and still is not) up to the task. So DARPA laid down the gauntlet to engineers to “make it so”.

The challenge has eight tests of the skill, strength and dexterity a robot needs to perform to make its way through a wrecked building.

Team KAIST from South Korean was the overall winner. See their robot and some of the other finalists in the gallery below.

Spectrum IEEE, the magazine and website of the US Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, has a wonderfully comprehensive feature on the challenge and what comes next. You can read it here.


Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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