Two teams of roboticists at Carnegie Mellon University are developing robots for a U.S. Department of Defense competition that can perform complex, physically challenging tasks at such disaster scenes as damaged nuclear power plants.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge has announced that it has selected the Tartan Rescue Team, led by Tony Stenz, director of the university's National Robotics Engineering Center, and Team Steel, led by Christopher Atkeson, professor in the Robotics Institute and Human-Computer Interaction Institute, to receive funding for the competition.
The agency also selected a team from a Robotics Institute spin-off company, RE2 Inc., of Pittsburgh for the competition.
A university news release said the agency announced the Robotics Challenge last spring in response to the federal government's National Robotics Initiative and the supporting role that robots played in reducing fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan. The agency hopes the Robotics Challenge will inspire innovations to make ground robots better able to take action in high-risk situations.
The competition already is underway with a software virtual competition next June to be followed by live hardware challenges in December 2013 and 2014. The teams are competing for a $2 million prize.
The Tartan Rescue Team is one of seven in Track A that will develop new robotic systems including hardware and software. Each team will received $3 million to help develop the robot, with the potential to qualify for another $1 million.
Team Steel and RE2 are among 11 teams selected in Track B to develop software only. After the virtual competition is completed, select Track B teams will qualify to receive a humanoid Atlas robot from the agency developed by Boston Dynamics for use in the live competitions.
Initially, each team will receive $375,000 with the potential to qualify for additional $750,000 and $1 million allotments.
"CMU's strength in this competition is that we have always taken seriously the idea that we need to make robots that do things in the real world," Mr. Atkeson said. "We have a wealth of experience here, so it's easy for me to get help from a bunch of colleagues to do this."