Robotics

Google’s Schaft robot takes top spot at DARPA Robotics Challenge

Google’s Schaft robot takes to...
Schaft scored 27 points
Schaft scored 27 points
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Schaft being readied for the challenge
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Schaft being readied for the challenge
Schaft Inc was recently bought by Google
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Schaft Inc was recently bought by Google
Schaft at the door test
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Schaft at the door test
Schaft opening the push door
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Schaft opening the push door
Schaft in the middle of the door challenge
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Schaft in the middle of the door challenge
Schaft moving to open a door
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Schaft moving to open a door
Schaft's manipulator arm
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Schaft's manipulator arm
Schaft reaching for door knob
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Schaft reaching for door knob
Schaft opening pull door
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Schaft opening pull door
Schaft at the debris course
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Schaft at the debris course
Schaft clearing debris
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Schaft clearing debris
Schaft clearing debris
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Schaft clearing debris
Schaft moving farther into the debris course
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Schaft moving farther into the debris course
Schaft clearing second layer of debris
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Schaft clearing second layer of debris
Schaft clearing second layer of debris
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Schaft clearing second layer of debris
Schaft being prepared for drving course
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Schaft being prepared for drving course
Schaft in the Polaris
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Schaft in the Polaris
Schaft operating the steering wheel
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Schaft operating the steering wheel
Schaft negotiating the driving course
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Schaft negotiating the driving course
Schaft negotiating the driving course
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Schaft negotiating the driving course
Schaft clmbing the ladder
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Schaft clmbing the ladder
Schaft at the top of the ladder
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Schaft at the top of the ladder
Schaft workign a door knob
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Schaft workign a door knob
Schaft scored 27 points
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Schaft scored 27 points
Schaft
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Schaft
Valkyrie being prepared for the course
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Valkyrie being prepared for the course
Valkyrie being moved into position
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Valkyrie being moved into position
Valkyrie's "breasts"are designed to make room for linear actuators
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Valkyrie's "breasts"are designed to make room for linear actuators
Valkyrie scored a disappointing nil
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Valkyrie scored a disappointing nil
Valkyrie has a distinctly humanoid apperance
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Valkyrie has a distinctly humanoid apperance
Valkyrie operating a valve
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Valkyrie operating a valve
Valkyrie on the course
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Valkyrie on the course
face to face with Valkyrie
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face to face with Valkyrie
Valkyrie waiting to go into action
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Valkyrie waiting to go into action
Valkyrie
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Valkyrie
CHIMP on the terrain course
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CHIMP on the terrain course
CHIMP approaching the terrain course
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CHIMP approaching the terrain course
CHIMP on the ramp
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CHIMP on the ramp
CHIMP using its rollers
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CHIMP using its rollers
CHIMP on the breeze blocks
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CHIMP on the breeze blocks
CHIMP being moved into position
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CHIMP being moved into position
CHIMP clearing debris
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CHIMP clearing debris
CHIMP on the doors course
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CHIMP on the doors course
CHIMP carrying a fire hose
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CHIMP carrying a fire hose
CHIMP attaching a fore hose
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CHIMP attaching a fore hose
CHIMP clearing debris
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CHIMP clearing debris
CHIMP clearing debris
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CHIMP clearing debris
CHIMP opening push door
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CHIMP opening push door
CHIMP opening push door
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CHIMP opening push door
CHIMP getting ready
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CHIMP getting ready
KAIST on door course
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KAIST on door course
KAIST
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KAIST
KAIST in the middle of the door course
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KAIST in the middle of the door course
KAIST in the middle of the door course
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KAIST in the middle of the door course
KAIST on valve course
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KAIST on valve course
KAIST on ladder
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KAIST on ladder
The four tracks
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The four tracks
The Atlas robot
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The Atlas robot
The challenge course
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The challenge course
The results
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The results
Evolution of the robot
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Evolution of the robot
The competitors
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The competitors
RoboSimian on the valve course
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RoboSimian on the valve course
RoboSimian closing a valve
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RoboSimian closing a valve
RoboSimian carrying a fire hose
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RoboSimian carrying a fire hose
RoboSimian carrying a fire hose
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RoboSimian carrying a fire hose
RoboSimian at hole cutting course
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RoboSimian at hole cutting course
RoboSimian closing a valve
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RoboSimian closing a valve
RoboSimian on the breeze blocks
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RoboSimian on the breeze blocks
RoboSimian on the terrain course
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RoboSimian on the terrain course
RoboSimian on the move
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RoboSimian on the move
RoboSimian
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RoboSimian
RoboSimian getting ready
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RoboSimian getting ready
RoboSimian on the move
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RoboSimian on the move
Artist's concept of RoboSimian
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Artist's concept of RoboSimian
THOR on the hole cutting course
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THOR on the hole cutting course
THOR on exhibit
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THOR on exhibit
THOR
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THOR
Vigir at the course
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Vigir at the course
Vigir clearing debris
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Vigir clearing debris
Team Vigir
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Team Vigir
Vigir being moved into position
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Vigir being moved into position
Vigir
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Vigir
Atlas robot and support module
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Atlas robot and support module
Atlas robots waiting for the start
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Atlas robots waiting for the start
Atlas robot on the cutting course
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Atlas robot on the cutting course
Atlas robot on the cutting course
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Atlas robot on the cutting course
KAIST on cutting course
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KAIST on cutting course
Atlas robot
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Atlas robot
KAIST on door course
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KAIST on door course
Mojovation team
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Mojovation team
Mojovation on doors course
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Mojovation on doors course
MIT robot on driving course
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MIT robot on driving course
Team HKU robot
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Team HKU robot
DRC Hubo robot
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DRC Hubo robot
Team mojovation
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Team mojovation
DRc-Hubo being moved into position
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DRc-Hubo being moved into position
MIT robot on the terrain course
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MIT robot on the terrain course
THOR in the Polaris
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THOR in the Polaris
THOR on the driving course
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THOR on the driving course
THOR on the driving course
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THOR on the driving course
THOR on the driving course
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THOR on the driving course
THOR on the driving course
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THOR on the driving course
MIT robot on the terrain course
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MIT robot on the terrain course
MIT robot beginnig run on terrain course
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MIT robot beginnig run on terrain course
THOR in Polaris
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THOR in Polaris
THOR closing valve
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THOR closing valve
THOR closing valve
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THOR closing valve
Trac Labs robot on terrain course
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Trac Labs robot on terrain course
Trac Labs robot on terrain course
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Trac Labs robot on terrain course
Trac Labs robot on terrain course
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Trac Labs robot on terrain course
Preparing the course
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Preparing the course
A cosmetic touch
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A cosmetic touch
Preparing the debris course
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Preparing the debris course
Trooper in the Polaris
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Trooper in the Polaris
Trooper in the Polaris
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Trooper in the Polaris
HKU on debris course
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HKU on debris course
The Schft team
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The Schft team
HKU on the terrain course
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HKU on the terrain course
Trooper at the ready
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Trooper at the ready
Mojovation at the doors
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Mojovation at the doors
MIT robot at the doors
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MIT robot at the doors
Trooper being moved into positiion
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Trooper being moved into positiion
DRC Hubo getting ready
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DRC Hubo getting ready
Trooper in the Polaris
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Trooper in the Polaris
Trooper getting rigged for the competition
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Trooper getting rigged for the competition
Trooper on the driving course
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Trooper on the driving course
Detail view of an Atlas robot
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Detail view of an Atlas robot
Atlas robot at the ready
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Atlas robot at the ready
Atlas robot in the Polaris
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Atlas robot in the Polaris
Trooper in the Polaris
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Trooper in the Polaris
Atlas on cutting course
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Atlas on cutting course
Trooper carrying fire hose
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Trooper carrying fire hose
MIT robot in the Polaris
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MIT robot in the Polaris
DRC-Hubo
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DRC-Hubo
HKU robot being positioned
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HKU robot being positioned
Atlas robot closing vlavle
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Atlas robot closing vlavle
Atlas robot climbing stairs
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Atlas robot climbing stairs
DRC-Hubo in Polaris
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DRC-Hubo in Polaris
Atlas robot on the ladder
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Atlas robot on the ladder
Vigir at the door course
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Vigir at the door course
MIT robot clearing debris
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MIT robot clearing debris
MIT robot on the debris course
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MIT robot on the debris course
Moving Vigir
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Moving Vigir
An Atlas robot on the debris course
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An Atlas robot on the debris course
Trooper on the ladder
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Trooper on the ladder
Trooper climbing the ladder
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Trooper climbing the ladder
Trooper climbing
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Trooper climbing
Atlas robot on the door course
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Atlas robot on the door course
Moving Kaist
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Moving Kaist
The media at the DRC
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The media at the DRC
Kaist on the terrain course
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Kaist on the terrain course
MIT robot on the cutting course
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MIT robot on the cutting course
Working on the IHMC robot
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Working on the IHMC robot
Face to face with a robot
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Face to face with a robot
Robot control station
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Robot control station
Working on CHIMP
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Working on CHIMP
Adjusting a manipulator
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Adjusting a manipulator
Atlas robot on the terrain course
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Atlas robot on the terrain course
Atlas robot on the cutting course
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Atlas robot on the cutting course
Robot control station
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Robot control station
Atlas robot on the terrain course
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Atlas robot on the terrain course
Boston Dynamics Big Dog making an exhibition appearance at the DRC
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Boston Dynamics Big Dog making an exhibition appearance at the DRC
Mojovation
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Mojovation
An exhibition robot at the DRC
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An exhibition robot at the DRC
An exhibition robot at the DRC
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An exhibition robot at the DRC
An all-terrain robot on exhibit at the DRC
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An all-terrain robot on exhibit at the DRC
Road runner robot on exhibit at the DRC
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Road runner robot on exhibit at the DRC
Football playing robot on exhibit at the DRC
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Football playing robot on exhibit at the DRC
The DRC is designed to produce new technology for disaster responxe
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The DRC is designed to produce new technology for disaster responxe
Team Chiron baseball card
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Team Chiron baseball card
Team HKU baseball card
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Team HKU baseball card
DRC Hubo baseball card
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DRC Hubo baseball card
IHMC Robotics baseball card
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IHMC Robotics baseball card
Team Intelligent Pioneer baseball card
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Team Intelligent Pioneer baseball card
Team Kaist baseball card
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Team Kaist baseball card
Team MIT baseball card
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Team MIT baseball card
Team Mojovation baseball card
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Team Mojovation baseball card
RoboSimian baseball card
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RoboSimian baseball card
Schaft baseball card
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Schaft baseball card
Tartan Rescue baseball card
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Tartan Rescue baseball card
Team THOR baseball card
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Team THOR baseball card
Team Trac Labs baseball card
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Team Trac Labs baseball card
Team Trooper baseball card
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Team Trooper baseball card
NASA JSC Team Valkyrie baseball card
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NASA JSC Team Valkyrie baseball card
Teeam Vigir baseball card
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Teeam Vigir baseball card
WPI Robotics Engineering C Squad (WRECS)
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WPI Robotics Engineering C Squad (WRECS)

Leave it to DARPA to turn disaster relief into a competitive sport for robots, and for Google to walk away with the prize. On Saturday, 16 robotics teams from around the world competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials for 2013, as part of DARPA’s project for developing robots capable of autonomously navigating disaster areas and doing useful work using tools and materials at hand. The two-day event was streamed live on December 20 and 21 from Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway. Google’s Schaft humanoid robot scored 27 points and won first place as it navigated an obstacle course which was made to simulate a disaster area, while carrying out a series of tasks.

Built by a Japanese start-up recently purchased by Google, Schaft isn’t what you would call photogenic. It stands 1.48 m (4.8 ft) tall, weighs in at 95 kg (209 lb) in its socks (if it wore socks), and looks like a partly disassembled air conditioner that’s grown arms and legs. However, what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in performance. According to Schaft, Inc, it’s based on the HRP-2 robot with hardware and software modifications, including more powerful actuator systems, a walking/stabilization system, and a capacitor that takes the place of a battery.

The competitors

When the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) was announced in April of last year, over 100 teams applied to compete. After a series of reviews and virtual challenges, the field was narrowed down to 16 competing in four “tracks.” Track A included teams that qualified for funding to develop hardware and software, Track B were funded to develop software and were supplied with a Boston Dynamics Atlas robot for the competition, track C were free agents who were later given software funding and an Atlas robot, and Track D were competitors who didn’t get any funding.

Atlas robot
Atlas robot

It wasn’t hard to figure out which teams belonged to which tracks. Track A, which Schaft belonged to, is notable for a pretty diverse collection of robots. For example, there’s RoboSimian built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). As the name implies, this prototype space explorer is supposed to be a sort of robot ape, though it looks more like the result of the mating of a robot crab and a robot octopus.

Another primatoid robot is Tartan Rescue’s CHIMP and it does resemble a chimp – assuming that chimps are bright red, lack heads, and have have rollers on their elbows for negotiating rough terrain. At the other end of the spectrum is the Johnson Space Center’s Valkyrie, which looks like an anime character complete with a Tony Starkesque chest light and what appear to be breasts, though the builders claim that it’s just a bulge to make room in the torso for linear actuators to move the waist.

Valkyrie's "breasts"are designed to make room for linear actuators
Valkyrie's "breasts"are designed to make room for linear actuators

The B and C track teams are often difficult to tell apart because they all use Atlas robots. If it wasn’t for the cooling fan in the torso, it would have been nice if some money had been set aside for robotic T-shirts to keep them straight.

Finally, there are the D track teams, Chiron, which looks like a metallic sea louse; Mojovation, which is distinctly minimalist; South Korea’s Kaist, and China’s Intelligent Pioneer.

The competition

These 16 teams from around the world were set eight individual, physical tasks that test mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and operator control mechanism. Each set of challenges was worth three points.

RoboSimian carrying a fire hose
RoboSimian carrying a fire hose

The first part of any relief operation is getting to the disaster area, so the robots had to drive a Polaris Ranger XP 900, complete with airless tires, through an obstacle course of barriers and barrels, then they had to get out of the vehicle and walk to the finish line.

The next test was to walk across rough terrain, represented by ramps and piles of breeze blocks. Then the robots had to remove debris from in front of a doorway and go through the door. Next was opening and going through a series of doors, then climbing an industrial ladder, cutting through a wall, carrying and connecting a fire hose, and, finally, closing three valves.

After day two was completed, the results were released:

  • Schaft: 27 points
  • IHMC Robotics: 20 points
  • Tartan Rescue CHIMP: 18 points
  • MIT: 16 points
  • RoboSimian: 14 points
  • Traclabs: 11 points
  • Wrecs: 11 points
  • Trooper: 9 points
  • THOR: 8 points
  • Vigir: 8 points
  • Kaist: 8 points
  • HKU: 3 points
  • DRC Hubo: 3 points
  • Chiron: 0 points
  • NASA-JSC Valkyrie: 0 points
  • Mojovation: 0 points
  • DARPA says that the point of the competition is to provide a baseline from which to develop robotics for disaster response. Events such as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster demonstrate that robots have a part to play in relief operations. The massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which not only damaged the reactors, but made it impossible for crews to respond in time. DARPA believes that robots that could navigate the ruins and work in radioactive environments would have been of great help.

    Trooper climbing the ladder
    Trooper climbing the ladder

    The problem is that current robots aren’t up to task. Specialized robots can’t be built to deal with the unpredictable, while full telepresence control is neither practical nor desirable, and most robots tend to be a bit on the delicate side. What’s needed is a robot that can work on its own, use tools and vehicles at hand, deal with the unpredictable, and is durable and agile enough to operate in the ruins of a building.

    That’s where DRC comes in. DARPA will use the results of the competition to draw a baseline that will benefit engineers working on the next generation of robots. For now, the top eight of the teams go on with DARPA funding to compete in the Robotics Finals event late next year, for a US$2 million prize.

    The video below is a recap of the second day of the trails.

    Source: DARPA Robotics Challenge Trails 2013

    DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials Day Two Wrap

    4 comments
    Didier Newman
    So, if machines take over all human activity, including art and science, what will happen to the organic body and its conditioned-to-work-and-think brain? Surely, will it decay? Is mankind-machines coexistence possible while people are fighting for jobs and resources: competition, nations, and so on? Anyway, what is the endeavour in which a robot cannot take part or channel at all? Why won't the future automatons be alive? What is the fundamental difference between a mechanical structure, organic or inorganic, that imitates life and life itself? Is there any, virtual or real? If there is a difference, is it just some kind of authority who defines and differentiates between things? Perhaps then, someday, will be a powerful automaton the one who will define life, its unique life?
    zevulon
    google bought the company that made this robot--schaft, and boston dynamics----both companies with major military investment contracts from darpa. ONLY DAYS before this 'contest'; i have not seen a single website critically analyzing this 'acquisition'. does NOBODY have any thoughts about the timing and nature of these purchases? economic thoughts? business thoughts? insider trading thoughts? political nature of these acquisitions?
    Gabriel Pérez Aguiar
    Google's motto is 'don't be evil' so i won't be worried about their goal, whatever it is, even if they want to rule the world, buy all the companies, and make us to use google +.
    1nexus1
    So if the technology is developed to navigate a disaster zone, it can potentially navigate war zone or an urban neighborhood....