Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated Friday and Saturday at
It's all stuff people can do. But the mission for the teams in the competition is to make robots that could function in disaster zones where the conditions could be threatening to humans.
It's advanced but not sci-fi. The robots, which move far slower than humans, are controlled by people telling them what action to take.
The top bots will move into the finals next year. The winning team gets
The entry by defense contractor
The labs did well enough in the virtual version of the competition this year to be supplied a prebuilt robot and allowed to continue to this month's round of the
With the machine already built, Lockheed's team was responsible for the software. "We want the system to be intuitive to untrained operators," said
During a practice session last week, an engineer used a joystick and a computer mouse to tell the 6-foot tall, 300-pound robot where — and how — to move as it picked up pieces of rubble.
In a real-life rubble removing situation, the controller might not be close to the robot. That's why the operators did their work from behind a black curtain. They had monitors to show the view from a camera on the robot, but they could not see the whole action from the outside.
The robot designed at
"We wanted to design a robot that had roughly human form, so that it fits in the environment that humans operate in. But we didn't want to take on the difficult task of building a machine that it too humanlike," Stentz said. For example, walking on two legs presents a major engineering challenge, so CHIMP rolls on treads, like a small tank. It has treads on its arms, too, and gets down on all fours to go over rough terrain.
Like other robots in the competition, CHIMP gets some commands from humans but also has the ability to make limited decisions. "So we are telling it what to do, and it's deciding how to do it," Stentz said.
Stentz said many people don't really understand how difficult it is to get a machine to do even simple tasks. Robots excel in doing particular things such as welding a car part on an assembly line. But search and rescue missions take place in vastly different and constantly changing environments.
During practice runs at CMU, it took CHIMP several minutes to open a door or attach a fire hose to a water faucet. While less exciting than fictional robots' capabilities, those tasks are more complicated and varied than robots usually do, such as vacuuming a room.
"We think that the public ends up with a sense that robots are far more capable than they are," Stentz said of how
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