By the end of next year, robots will walk into a disaster zone. They won't roll in on wheels or rumble in on treads. They will walk, striding across rubble, most of them balancing on two legs. Compared with human first responders, the machines will move slowly and halt frequently. But what they lack in speed, they make up for in resilience and disposability. Chemical fires can't sear a robot's lungs, and a lifespan cut short by gamma rays is a logistical snag rather than a tragedy.
They'll have the mobility to do what robots couldn't at Fukushima, navigating a crisis that unfolds in an environment lousy with doors, stairs, shattered infrastructure, and countless other obstacles. Where previous humanoid bots could barely trundle over the lip of a carpet, these systems will have to climb ladders and slide into vehicles that they themselves drive. And while the ability to turn a doorknob is now cause for celebration even in top-tier robotics labs, these bots will open what doors they can and use power tools to hammer or saw through the ones they can't.
Because disasters tend to degrade or knock out communication, the surrogates will have a surprising amount of responsibility. Very few, if any, will be tele-operated systems, driven remotely by people using a joystick or wearing sensor gloves. The humanoids will take orders from distant humans, but they'll use their own algorithms to determine how to properly grip a Sawzall, where to start cutting, and for how long.
The catastrophe the robots will be walking into is, in fact, an obstacle course, built for the two-year-long DARPA Robotics Challenge, which launched last October. At stake is a $2-million prize, awarded to the team whose machine not only scores well in a head-to-head competition this December, but prevails at a second one in 2014. Bots will have to perform eight different tasks, demonstrating both mobility and manipulation skills, that might be required of human first responders.
"What we've seen in disaster after disaster, from Hurricane Katrina to Fukushima and now to Superstorm Sandy, is that there are often clear limitations to what humans can accomplish in the early stages of a disaster," says Gill Pratt, program manager for the challenge. "DARPA believes that robots can substitute for humans where and when situations are too dangerous."
The competition rules don't explicitly call for a humanoid design, but the tasks and environment make one a logical choice. From the height of doorknobs to the placement of brake pedals, nearly everything will be positioned and proportioned for creatures that walk upright. The places we care about most in a disaster are where humans live and work—a robot made in our own image is a natural fit.
Completing just a few of the competition's tasks would be a remarkable achievement. Nailing all eight of them would be something more. It could mean the birth of the viable humanoid, a machine that's both competent and robust. Such robots could go where mankind has gone before but shouldn't again, striding toward the toxic plume or the reactor in meltdown, into the fresh ruins of the built world. These robots could be heroes.
Ah yes, the more the development of robots and manufactoring or robots the better. Oooo, nice done!
I'm not interested unless the first model says "Come with me if you want to live."
I really don't care, as long as I'm safe. I would even give the robot a kiss at the end...
success in achieving a contract or grant, but i'm also wondering or U currently or planning DIY 10 & up there R some available but i'm looking for personal innovation that can be acted upon. would like to see an article on what Ur willing to share/sell.
Im going to start by saying we JUST launched this forum just a few days ago, at the time of this post, but DIYGR.net is a forum built to try to build the first crowd designed and created giant robot. Its more of an ages 13+ thing but we made it just for personal innovation and growth both in robotics and in personal pride in something that isn't doing drugs or drinking every night. Unlike most groups that are willing to share designs and plans AFTER a successful completion we're all about open source from start, which is definately where we are, to finish. As everything is freely posted in a forum it will be avalible for anyone to either try themselves or contribute to. And just so people don't think its just fantasy site or just another way to put ads in peoples faces, there are ZERO ads and no cost to join or even an option for "premium membership". This is my personal gift to the community out of my own wallet, and I'd like to invite anyone interested to join us and help out!
The most important thing here is avoiding over manipulation of the "intelligence" areas of the controlling computers. We don't want iRobot going down anytime soon...or ever.