The Obstacle Course Where DARPA Will Test a New Breed of Robot Heroes
But in order to win the ultimate $2 million purse, the six competing
The robots' first task will be their easiest. They've just got to slalom a 2WD
Once they've parked the Polaris, the robots will then have to clamber through an ankle-breaking series of cinder-block walking hazards. The course consists of ten subsections that become increasingly difficult as the bots progress.
Moving from right to left in the map above, the robots will first have to walk over 15-degree pitch ramps, step over diagonally laced 2x4 and 4x4 tripping hazards. Then they'll need to hurdle six- and twelve-inch blocks, avoid 16- and 32-inch deep footfalls, mount the Diagonal Hill Stepfield and get down from its peak. After that, they'll mount and dismount another stepfield pocked with pitched stairs before finally leaping over miscellaneous debris normally found in disaster areas.
The third task will evaluate the robots' strength and dexterity. They must clear a path to a door by moving heavy debris piles that weigh between five and ten pounds. Hopefully crushed infrastructure from future catastrophes will be stacked as neatly as it is here.
The door in Task Four leads to a hallway with three more doors. All the robots must do to advance is walk through them. Of course, they'll have to open each one first. The first door pushes open, the second one pulls, and the third is equipped with a weighted closure (those hissing things that keep the door from slamming behind you). Seems easy enough.
The robots' balance and agility will be tested in Take Five. Each contestant must ascend an eight-foot tall industrial ladder onto the roof of a shipping container.
DARPA's sixth task demands that each robot break through a section of wall. No, not with their mighty mechanical fists. They'll be employing power tools, like civilized robots. The contestants will have their pick of a Dewalt 18V Cordless Cut-Out Tool, a Ryobi P340 18V Cordless Job Pil, or a Skil 2895 18V Cordless Drill.
The penultimate stage demands an exceedingly high degree of dexterity. The contestants must identify and close a variety of valve wheels. The wheels will be located at various heights on a vertical wall, as well as on the horizontal surface behind it. The robots will have to find, grip, and turn the variously-sized wheels closed without ripping them out of the wall.
The final task demands a combination of speed, coordination, and strength. The robots must uncoil a fire hose from a wall-mounted rack, drag the connector end down a pathway to a fire hydrant, and then connect it using the supplied wrenches.
As impressive as this course is, especially given that the contestants will have to clear it while racing against the clock, this is among the first steps down a long road towards a truly deployable robot first responder.
After the Robotics Challenge is complete, the winning Track A teams (who build the robots) will collaborate with winning Track B and C teams (those who