It’s entirely possible that the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) will be a complete mess. The goal of this two-year Pentagon-funded competition is beyond ambitious—to develop robotic first responders, able to operate in Fukushima-like situations, human-centric environments that have become disaster zones too lethal for humans. But so far, the competition has occurred almost entirely out of sight, as teams around the world build and test sophisticated robots in labs, and with simulation software. The first competitive event in the DRC, a simulator-only event called the Virtual Robotics Challenge, played out this past summer with little fanfare or attention. The VRC was a qualifier, of sorts, to determine which teams would be able to use one of seven Atlas robots (built by Boston Dynamics and paid for by DARPA). On December 20th and 21st the DRC will begin in earnest, with the physical trials being held at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.