Low-tech testing tools for high-tech robots
Darpa robotics challenge (DRC)
Well known for funding all sorts of military-oriented sci-tech projects in the USA, Darpa (Defense advanced projects research agency) is just about to launch the grand final of their robotics challenge. Twenty-five of the top robotics organizations in the world will gather to compete for $3.5 million in prizes as they attempt a simulated disaster-response course.
I was not too impressed by the semi-finals in December 2013. I actually use a video of the Schaft S-One robot climbing a ladder to illustrate how far humanoid robots are from anything vaguely similar to old school Terminator or Ava from the recent Ex-Machina movie.
Anyways, this post is a total side line: I had a look at videos of teams getting ready, working on balancing their robot (they are not allowed to assist the robot if it falls during the contest). I love the lo-tech tools built by the teams to push and prod the robots (a tradition started with the infamous video of Boston Dynamics Big Dog being kicked in 2008).
DRC teams develop a somehow re-assuring ad-hocist approach that strongly contrasts with the titanium and silicon aesthetics of the machines.
Case A: MIT, pushing Atlas robot in the groin with an ominous looking cardboard tube
Case B: much more creative, research dudes in Virginia Tech have built a contraption that combines a broom handle and a child’s shoe. A clever design that allows pushing AND pulling!
If you liked the videos and you happen to be in Pomona, California on June 5th and 6th, check it out, entry is free! A unique opportunity to spot the next step in evolution (but you might not get to see the pushing tools).