DARPA Video Shows Next Step In Robotics

We couple of weeks ago we did a piece reviewing the future of robots in warfare. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is at the forefront of sponsoring the development of war robots, so called warbots. The agency has already premiered a donkey like robot which walks on all fours. The robot has been speculated to be a candidate to carry heavy loads for soldiers on the battlefield. Video has been released of the robot carrying a load, also walking on steep terrain, on ice, and on snow. In another video a so-called robotic cheetah has been shown running on a thread mill at almost 30 miles per hour, faster than the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt.

DARPA is very interested in the future of robotics. The agency recently announced a robotics challenge which will see teams compete robots which will:

The primary technical goal of the DRC is to develop ground robots capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments. Competitors in the DRC are expected to focus on robots that can use standard tools and equipment commonly available in human environments, ranging from hand tools to vehicles, with an emphasis on adaptability to tools with diverse specifications.

In a recent video DARPA spotlighted a robot which can be seen jumping up onto a raised step, and using walls in order to balance itself as it maneuvers itself over a hole in the ground. There is also a scene which shows the robot climbing up a flight of stairs, albeit with some human assistance.

The goal of the DARPA robotics challenge is to make a robot which has at least some autonomous decision making capabilities. This would be in line with reported Defense Department goals to have unmanned drones being developed to make targeting decisions without human input in the future. The DARPA website says that the robots should be developed such that even non expert operators could operate them, and that they would continue to function in environments with low or interrupted communications.

A secondary goal of the DARPA robotics challenge is to make affordable robotics hardware and software more accessible. DARPA would provide assistance to interested contributors, including in the form of a simulator which DARPA will create which will include populated simulations of robots, components and environments.

These latest revelations show the government is serious about not only bringing robots to the battlefield, but also the fact that DARPA is developing the additional development capabilities seems to indicate that the government is going planning to promote more extensive robot development potentially for civilian use.

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