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

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The robot designed at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University is called CHIMP – for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform. It is just over 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and is one of 10 robots that were designed and built from scratch over the last 14 months for the DARPA challenge. Other teams are using their software on robots supplied by DARPA.

Anthony Stentz is the director of the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon and the lead researcher on CHIMP.

“We wanted to design a robot that had roughly human form, so that it fits in the environment that humans operate in. But we didn’t want to take on the difficult task of building a machine that is too humanlike,” Stentz said. For example, walking on two legs presents a major engineering challenge, so CHIMP rolls on treads, like a small tank. It has treads on its arms, too, and gets down on all fours to go over rough terrain.

Like other robots in the competition, CHIMP gets some commands from humans but also has the ability to make limited decisions. “So we are telling it what to do, and it’s deciding how to do it,” Stentz said.

Stentz said many people don’t really understand how difficult it is to get a machine to do even simple tasks.

Robots excel in doing particular things such as welding a car part on an assembly line. But search and rescue missions take place in vastly different and constantly changing environments.

During practice runs at CMU, it took CHIMP several minutes to open a door or attach a fire hose to a water faucet. While less exciting than fictional robots’ capabilities, those tasks are more complicated and varied than robots usually do, such as vacuuming a room.

“We think that the public ends up with a sense that robots are far more capable than they are,” Stentz said of how Hollywood portrays the machines.

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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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