Many people grew up watching “The Jetsons,” a futuristic television show that had a benevolent robotic maid, Rosie, on-hand to help the family. When this generation grew up, their children flocked to movie theaters to see, “Wall-E,” a robot with a heart who cleaned up the Earth and fell in love with Eve. Now the days of robots working with humans are here.
The DARPA robot challenge showed how robots could work with humans to help save their lives in a crisis. The DARPA Robotics Challenge 2015 is funded and fueled by the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The finals were held on Friday and Saturday in California. The robots required years of research and development, along with preparation for this big event.
Team Kaist of Daejeon, Republic of Korea, won the first prize with its robot DRC-Hubo. Second prize when to the robot Running Man from Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, FL, with third prize going to Tartan Rescue of Pittsburgh, PA. The first prize winners received $2 million in prize money with $1 million for the second prize winners and $500,000 for the third place finishers.
According to their website, the DARPA program manager and DRC organizer, Gill Pratt, congratulated all 23 participating teams. He also thanks them for helping to open a new era of partnership between humans and robotics. Pratt expressed that one of the biggest lessons from DRC was, “the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another.”
Technical tasks are already being performed by robotics, ranging from the Roomba that vacuums homes to DaVinci robotic surgery to laboratory automation that handles tasks such as colony picking. Now robots are being created to respond to humanitarian needs.
One of the goals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge is to boost progress in robotics to bring the day closer when robots can enter areas that are too dangerous for humans to help mitigate the impacts of disasters, whether they are natural or man-made. It seems everyone has already come a long way from the concepts of Rosie and Wall-E. It will be incredible to see the reality of robotics brought to life over the next decade.