Japanese team wins DARPA challenge to find next generation of rescue robots

The challenge had 16 teams attempting to complete tasks like clearing debris, wielding a hose and navigating uneven terrain. Eight of these teams have now qualified for the next round set to be held next year.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Dec. 23, 2013 at 11:25 AM
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A robot designed by Japanese team Schaft was the top scorer in a competition to find the next generation of rescue robots.

The Pentagon’s DARPA Robotics Challenge 2013 trials took place over the weekend in Homestead, Florida, and had eight rescue-related challenges.

Schaft was the top scorer with 27 points out of a possible 32. In second place was a robot from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition with a distant 20 points followed by Tartan Rescue, developed by the National Research Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Schaft, which was recently acquired by Google, was started by a group of Japanese university students, who seemed to be the best prepared for the challenges. Starting with only an agency handout the group had already developed three prototypes as early as last summer.

“When we got there to do the site review and walked into their lab,” said DARPA program manager Gill Pratt, “we were amazed.”

The trials, held in on the infield of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, included 16 teams, eight of which have qualified for the second round to be held next year. These teams are also eligible for a $1 million grant to further improve their machines.

The victory by the Japanese teams is ironic considering the Japanese did not have an autonomous robot to assist with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. The challenge aims to find the next generation of rescue robots to aid in disaster situations, traveling and working where humans cannot.


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