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Maybe Not Sci-Fi, But Robots Readied For Big Tests

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Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated at Homestead Miami Speedway for how well they can complete tasks including getting into an all-terrain vehicle and driving it and opening doors.

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 science-fiction. 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 $2 million as part of a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The entry by defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories, made with help from students at the University of Pennsylvania and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, has been tested in an industrial park in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

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 DARPA challenge.

With the machine already built, Lockheed’s team was responsible for the software. “We want the system to be intuitive to untrained operators,” said Bill Borgia, the director of Lockheed’s intelligent robotics laboratory.

During a practice session, an engineer used a joystick and a computer mouse to tell the 6-foot (1.8-meter) tall, 300-pound (135-kilogram) 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 is 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.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Jan 3rd, 2014 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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