U.S. offers $2 million for rescue robot

April 10, 2012 at 9:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it is offering a $2 million prize for the design of an advanced rescue robot.

Various challenges requiring robots to navigate a series of physical tasks like those anticipated in real-world disasters will confront teams in the competition, TG Daily reported Tuesday.

Robots played an important role in dealing with last year's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, and U.S. military forces use robots to help defuse improvised explosive devices, DARPA program manager Gill Pratt said.

"True innovation in robotics technology could result in much more effective robots that could better intervene in high-risk situations and thus save human lives and help contain the impact of natural and man-made disasters," he said.

"This challenge is going to test supervised autonomy in perception and decision-making, mounted and dismounted mobility, dexterity, strength and endurance in an environment designed for human use but degraded due to a disaster."

Robots in the competition, set to begin in October, will be required to demonstrate the ability to use available human tools, ranging from hand tools to vehicles.

"Robots undoubtedly capture the imagination, but that alone does not justify an investment in robotics," DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabriel said. "For robots to be useful [to the Department of Defense] they need to offer gains in either physical protection or productivity.

"The most successful and useful robots would do both via natural interaction with humans in shared environments."

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