After the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, the U.S. government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created the Robotics Challenge. Its goal is to develop ground robots that can work in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments.
At the Miami Speedway, the robots competed against each other in a series of tasks, each worth a maximum of four points. Tasks were subdivided into parts depending on the number of sub-tasks involved. For instance, if there were three doors for the robots to open, each part was worth one point, and so on. The fourth and final point was a bonus awarded if the robot completed all three tasks without any direct (physical) human intervention. Each team had 30 minutes to complete a task.
While most of the entries were engineered to resemble humanoids with two legs, JPL's RoboSimian tackled tasks like climbing over rough terrain on all four of its limbs (thus the Simian part of the name). Robosimian placed fifth out of 16 teams competing. Only the top eight were named "finalists" and will get the opportunity to receive continued DARPA funding to compete in the Robotics Finals event in late 2014. These teams will be among those battling to win a $2 million prize.
(Check out a video of RoboSimian competing in various challenges at the Miami Speedway here.)
The full list of finalists is online at: http://www.theroboticschallenge.org/ . The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA. For more information about robotics at JPL, including involvement with the DARPA Robotics Challenge, see: http://www-robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm .
Media ContactDavid Israel 818-354-4797
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.