Participants in the DARPA Robotics Challenge completed the competition’s Virtual Robotics Challenge this week. In the five-day event, 26 teams programmed a virtual robot to complete complex tasks. Seven of those teams have advanced and will now work with Boston Dynamics’ Atlas humanoid robot during the next phase of the competition.
While it’s too late to jump into the DRC, enterprising engineers can try their hand at the virtual obstacle course. DARPA has made its simulation software, Gazebo, available as a free download for Linux and Ubuntu users (OSX and Windows versions are on the way). You can also download a virtual model of Atlas and all of the challenges used in the DARPA event.
Gazebo is a product of the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), and the agency directed its developers to overhaul the product and also make it suitable for anyone to use. The post-DARPA system is much more detailed than the original version, and development funding will continue for the next year and a half, so even more features are on the way.
The system is designed to leverage cloud computing assets, with the express goal of reducing the cost of entry for robotics research. Meanwhile, DARPA is preparing for the next event in December, physical trials that will require the robots to climb ladders, use power tools, and remove debris blocking an entryway, among other tasks. Participants in that event will include the seven teams with the Atlas robots, as well as other teams that have designed their own robots.