While Pacific Rim might have made robots big again in popular media, the real work being done on robots isn’t in combat operations. Every time a firefighter loses his life on the job, or people are asked to go into a toxic or nuclear environment to perform cleanup, the same job could be performed by a robot without risk to humans. DARPA is helping advance robotic technology with its DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) with the intent that one day soon robots could perform vital disaster relief work and save more lives.
The DRC began with a virtual robotic challenge (VRC), open to teams from around the world, to prove they could program a robot to perform the kinds of tasks that go hand-in-hand with disasters. These tasks include navigating around hazards, the ability to use tools, remaining mobile and functional, and solid communication with human handlers. A total of 26 teams from eight countries were selected to compete. Continue reading
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.
Maneuvering a remote controlled helicopter using a standard controller can be pretty challenging for a novice. I’m not sure how a new thought-control method developed at the University of Minnesota will compare. Researchers there have come up with a way to control a small quadicopter using electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain signals and transfer them to the copter. Continue reading
Building on work that allowed researchers to more rapidly and economically build small-scale flying robots, Harvard University graduate student Pakpong Chirarattananon’s “RoboBee” took to the air for its first flight. The flight represents success for not only for Chirarattananon, but also for the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
“This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years,” said Robert J. Wood, professor of engineering and applied sciences at SEAS. “It’s really only because of this lab’s recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design that we have even been able to try this. And it just worked, spectacularly well.” Continue reading