Robotics

South Korea's Team KAIST wins 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge

DARPA Robotics Challenge winner DRC-HUBO is latest of the "HUmanoid roBOt (HUBO) robots developed by the Korean Institute for Science and Technology
DARPA Robotics Challenge winner DRC-HUBO is latest of the "HUmanoid roBOt (HUBO) robots developed by the Korean Institute for Science and Technology
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KAIST's DRC-HUBO took first place
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KAIST's DRC-HUBO took first place
The KAIST team
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The KAIST team
DRC-HUBO is the latest iteration of the HUBO series
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DRC-HUBO is the latest iteration of the HUBO series
DRC-HUBO clearing debris
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DRC-HUBO clearing debris
DRC-HUBO cutting a hole
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DRC-HUBO cutting a hole
DRC-HUBO at the wall task
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DRC-HUBO at the wall task
DRC-HUBO opening a door
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DRC-HUBO opening a door
DRC-HUBO entering the room
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DRC-HUBO entering the room
DRC-HUBO operating a door handle
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DRC-HUBO operating a door handle
DRC-HUBO driving the Polaris
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DRC-HUBO driving the Polaris
DRC-HUBO exiting the car
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DRC-HUBO exiting the car
DRC-HUBO navigating a car exit
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DRC-HUBO navigating a car exit
DRC-HUBO rolling
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DRC-HUBO rolling
DRC-HUBO exiting the car
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DRC-HUBO exiting the car
DRC-HUBO on the stairs
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DRC-HUBO on the stairs
DRC-HUBO at the top of the stairs
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DRC-HUBO at the top of the stairs
DRC-HUBO at the surprise task
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DRC-HUBO at the surprise task
Team KAIST
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Team KAIST
DRC-HUBO turning a valve
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DRC-HUBO turning a valve
DRC-HUBO on the debris field
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DRC-HUBO on the debris field
DRC-HUBO cutting a hole
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DRC-HUBO cutting a hole
DRC-HUBO in the car
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DRC-HUBO in the car
DRC-HUBO on the stairs
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DRC-HUBO on the stairs
DRC-HUBO completing the stairs task
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DRC-HUBO completing the stairs task
DRC-HUBO at the valve task
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DRC-HUBO at the valve task
DRC-HUBO walking away from the car
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DRC-HUBO walking away from the car
Robot infographic
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Robot infographic
The DRC course debris field
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The DRC course debris field
HRP2+ at the door
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HRP2+ at the door
HRP2+ moving through the door
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HRP2+ moving through the door
HRP2+ clearing the door
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HRP2+ clearing the door
HRP2+ walking
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HRP2+ walking
HRP2+ operating the valve
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HRP2+ operating the valve
Stadium television view of HRP2+ operating the valve
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Stadium television view of HRP2+ operating the valve
HRP2+ on the debris field
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HRP2+ on the debris field
HRP2+ falls over
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HRP2+ falls over
Stadium television view of HRP2+ damage
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Stadium television view of HRP2+ damage
HRP2+ being removed
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HRP2+ being removed
HRP2+ on the crane
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HRP2+ on the crane
Leo opens the door
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Leo opens the door
Leo falls over
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Leo falls over
Chimp being prepared for the final day's competition
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Chimp being prepared for the final day's competition
Running Man on the debris field
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Running Man on the debris field
Vigir at the driving task
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Vigir at the driving task
Running Man on the debris field
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Running Man on the debris field
Running Man at the stairs
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Running Man at the stairs
Running Man lifts its arms at the stairs
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Running Man lifts its arms at the stairs
Running Man climbing the stairs
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Running Man climbing the stairs
Running Man completing stairs task
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Running Man completing stairs task
Spectators watching Running Man
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Spectators watching Running Man
Running Man salutes the crowd
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Running Man salutes the crowd
Running Man salutes
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Running Man salutes
Running Man mascot displays points
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Running Man mascot displays points
Running Man dances
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Running Man dances
Running Man dances
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Running Man dances
... Running Man falls over after dance
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... Running Man falls over after dance
Running Man on the ground
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Running Man on the ground
Vigir leaving car support
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Vigir leaving car support
Vigir lowers arms
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Vigir lowers arms
Vigir at the door
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Vigir at the door
Vigir working latch
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Vigir working latch
Vigir pushing door
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Vigir pushing door
Chris Atkeson of Team WPI-CMU
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Chris Atkeson of Team WPI-CMU
Vigir in doorway
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Vigir in doorway
Vigir approaching valve
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Vigir approaching valve
Vigir at valve
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Vigir at valve
Vigir on debris field
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Vigir on debris field
Robosimian in car
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Robosimian in car
Robosimian adjusts limbs
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Robosimian adjusts limbs
Robosimian on the ground
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Robosimian on the ground
Robosimian rolling
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Robosimian rolling
Robosimian in the room
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Robosimian in the room
Robosimian maneuvering
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Robosimian maneuvering
Robosimian picks up drill
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Robosimian picks up drill
Robosimian cutting
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Robosimian cutting
Robosimian at surprise task
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Robosimian at surprise task
Team Nimbo rescue's Momaro in the car
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Team Nimbo rescue's Momaro in the car
Momaro at the door
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Momaro at the door
Momaro approaching valve
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Momaro approaching valve
Momaro operating valve
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Momaro operating valve
Chimp at the wall task
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Chimp at the wall task
Running Man
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Running Man
Running Man detail
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Running Man detail
Robotis walking
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Robotis walking
Robotis at the valve
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Robotis at the valve
Robotis at wall
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Robotis at wall
Vigir hits traffic wall with car
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Vigir hits traffic wall with car
Robotis falls over
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Robotis falls over
DRC-HUBO in garage
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DRC-HUBO in garage
DRC-HUBO's innards
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DRC-HUBO's innards
DRC-HUBO with colleague
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DRC-HUBO with colleague
DARPA Robotics Challenge winner DRC-HUBO is latest of the "HUmanoid roBOt (HUBO) robots developed by the Korean Institute for Science and Technology
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DARPA Robotics Challenge winner DRC-HUBO is latest of the "HUmanoid roBOt (HUBO) robots developed by the Korean Institute for Science and Technology

The 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) has come to a close with South Korea's Team KAIST and its DRC-HUBO robot taking first prize in the US$3.5 million competition. The US Department of Defense's project to develop robots that can help responders in disaster areas saw KAIST beat 23 other teams from around the world in front of a crowd of 10,000 people.

On Saturday, as on the previous day, the action involved robots running a series of simultaneous heats where they negotiated a course while executing a series of eight tasks that simulated working in a disaster area.

The tasks included driving a car, opening a door, operating a valve, and climbing a flight of stairs. To prevent the teams from pre-programming the robots to run the course, a surprise task was included, which on the final day of the two-day competition required the robots to remove an electrical plug from a socket and set it in a different socket.

Under intense Californian sunshine, the final day of the Challenge saw the competition upped a notch. Since damage to the robots that would put them out of the running was no longer a factor, the teams took more chances and robots fell more often.

HRP2+ moving through the door
HRP2+ moving through the door

Team Aist Nedo performed very well until the debris challenge, but just when the anime-styled robot HRP2+ stepped off the debris field for a point, it toppled onto cinder blocks, bursting open its torso and spewing components.

Another challenger that was initially doing well was Team Robotis' Thormang 2 ... until it fell unexpectedly and lost its head while tackling the surprise task. The robot had unplugged a wire and was sorting out how to plug it into the other socket, then quietly toppled over and hit its head on the wall, knocking it loose.

Falling over was a common occurrence with so many bipedal robots competing, and some were even sporting foam shoulder pads to protect their delicate arm mechanisms. Many times the falls would happen while the robots were navigating the debris field or climbing the stairs, but sometimes it would be an almost surreal event, like when Lockheed Team Trooper's Leo opened the door, paused, then calmly fell to the ground as if it had decided to have a quick nap.

Chimp being prepared for the final day's competition
Chimp being prepared for the final day's competition

It's interesting to note that the robots were required to stand up on their own or face a ten minute penalty, but for all the falling, only Tartan Rescue's Chimp managed to get back to its feet on the first day and none did so on the second.

Behind the wheel, team Vigir's eponymous robot did its own take on self-driving cars when it crashed its Polaris two-seater into a traffic barrier during the driving challenge.

Crash-test robots weren't the only spectacle either – between the heats, as the next robots were wheeled out and prepared, Boston Dynamic's robotic Cheetah gamboled on the track in an impressive and alarmingly lifelike display of robotic agility.

DRC-HUBO's innards
DRC-HUBO's innards

By the afternoon, teams that had finished the competition were doing post mortems back in the cavernous "garage," where many of them had been living 24 hours a day throughout the Challenge. Robots were in various states of repair. Some were back in tethers and taking steps under the watchful eye of engineers like patients in an accident ward, some were almost completely disassembled, some seemed abandoned by their makers, and others were posed as either educational or humorous exhibits.

The last few teams, the heavy hitters with high point scores, were still preparing with last minute test runs and system checks.

The general atmosphere was for the most part one of elation, given the huge task the teams faced to make it to the competition in the first place. This was a sentiment shared by both high-scoring teams and those whose robots never got further than the first task – this was a matter of building robots that were like nothing seen before, and just getting them to the point where they could attempt the DARPA course was a major achievement.

Meanwhile the competition wound down to its conclusion, which while not exactly suspenseful, was certainly appreciated by the large crowd.

Team WPI-CMU's Warner was a crowd pleaser and looked like it would have a very good second day until the hole cutting task. The robot managed to pick up and activate two cordless drills only to drop both, forcing it to abandon the task.

Running Man salutes the crowd
Running Man salutes the crowd

This sort of difficulty is an illustration of the nature of the challenge. With the operators for each team confined to a building a quarter of a mile away and linked to their robot by a deliberately degraded communications system, they had to deal with significant time lags a very limited ability to control the machine.

Therefore, the robots had to be built with a high degree of autonomy, which the team engineers told us was the greatest part of the challenge. They had to build software that told the robot to carry out whole tasks and decide for itself how to do them. Precise teleoperation simply wasn't an option.

This was obvious when Team Robosimian took to the field. The robot, which resembles a cross between a spider and an ape, recovered neatly from a drill problem, but flubbed the surprise task when it lost its gap on the plug and backed away until it dropped it. Watched the plug slowly slide out of the robot’s open claw must have been agonizing for the operators when a simple command to close it would have saved the day.

Momaro at the door
Momaro at the door

It was clear by the last round that first prize would go to Team KAIST's DRC-HUBO robot and that the likely challengers weren't going to deliver an upset.

DRC-HUBO is the latest of the "HUmanoid roBOt (HUBO) robots developed by the Korean Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) in collaboration with the Rainbow Company since 2002.

DRC-HUBO gains some of its advantage from its unique leg design. Instead of just walking, it can also transform into a rolling mode. When it kneels, the lower limbs turn into a stable platform with wheels on the ankles and knees to propel it at relatively high speed. With its modified humanoid hybrid design and lightweight aluminum construction, KAIST says that it improves on previous versions, is more powerful, has stronger hands, and is programed with a new walking algorithm. In addition, all motors are equipped with cooling fans.

The final scores for the 2015 DRC Final saw Team KAIST taking the US$2 million first prize with 8 points and a time of 44:28. Second was Team IHMC Robotics's Running Man robot with 8 points and a time of 50:26. Tartan Rescue's Chimp, which won the first day of competition, came third with 8 points and a time of 55:15.

The video below shows Team KAIST winning the 2015 DRC Final.

For more information, visit the DRC site.

When Team KAIST Won the DARPA Robotics Challenge

2 comments
Bob Flint
Humbling to say the least as we as humans take for granted so many simple daily tasks. Good effort and keep up the work...
jimbo92107
Fantastic work by Team KAIST. Is this contest going to happen again next year, like the self-driving car contest from LA to Vegas?