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South Korean Robot Wins First Prize in DARPA Robotics Challenge

DRC-Hubo gets a grip on the valve. (Photo credit: DARPA.)
DRC-Hubo gets a grip on the valve. (Photo credit: DARPA.)

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals were recently held in Pomona, California. The contest, which tests a robot’s skills at assisting humans in natural disaster scenarios, is extremely difficult. Robot are judged on their ability to perform a variety of tasks, including walking across rubble, open doors, turn valves, climb stairs, and drive a vehicle. The event included 23 teams from around the world.

Team Kaist’s robot, DRC-Hubo, won first place in the competition, which came with $2 million in prize money. Second place went to Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Fla., and its robot Running Man. Tartan Rescue of Pittsburgh won third prize with its robot CHIMP. Not every attempt was successful, however, as is evidenced by a hilarious DARPA video of robots falling down.

“These robots are big and made of lots of metal and you might assume people seeing them would be filled with fear and anxiety,” said DARPA program manager organizer Gill Pratt. “But we heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell. And what did people do every time a robot scored a point? They cheered! It’s an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC—the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another.”

The competition was launched when Japan’s nuclear disaster in 2011 made the need for such high-performance robots for extremely hazardous situations became clear.

“This is the end of the DARPA Robotics Challenge but only the beginning of a future in which robots can work alongside people to reduce the toll of disasters,” said DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar. “I am so proud of all the teams that participated and know that the community that the DRC has helped to catalyze will do great things in the years ahead.”

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