Monday, November 04, 2013

CGAA Miscellaneous - The shape of Terminators to come

Hello everyone, Daniel Rolph here; I'm your author-in-residence this week.  For those of you who don't know me, I'm one of the ex-3rd years who graduated this summer.

My posts will probably have a higher science content than you might expect, but I'll do my best to make sure they're still interesting; on that note, on to the main feature!

Following on from the success of their Driverless Vehicle competitions, DARPA (the American Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) have moved on to more "traditional" robotics, with their DARPA Robotics Challenge - the goal is to produce a "rescue robot" for use in disaster-rescue operations.

Every robot entered into the competition has to be able to:-
  • Drive a truck to the disaster area
  • Cross rubble on its own
  • Clear debris from a door and make its way inside
  • Climb ladders
  • Use a tool to smash through a concrete wall
  • Close a valve near a leaking pipe
  • Use a firehose to extinguish a fire
The really interesting thing is the different approaches that are being used (and how several of them are straight out of fictional robots)

The majority of the entries are what might be called traditional androids, such as the Boston Dynamics Atlas below; these designs are mainly differentiated by clever programming and sensor design.
Boston Dynamics ATLAS
Virginia Tech THOR
The team from Carnegie Mellon university have come up with a hybrid design - it can operate like a normal humanoid robot, but its legs and arms also include caterpillar tracks to enable it to drive over smooth terrain and rubble faster than a bipedal robot could walk.

Carnegie Mellon CHIMP
Finally, one of the NASA teams is taking a completely different approach, with what can only really be described as a robotic octopus called RoboSimian.  It has a central torso/head with 4 identical multi-jointed limbs that can act as either arms or legs, depending on the situation.
NASA RoboSimian

As a techno-geek, it's great to see that reality is finally catching up to the promise of film and television; it's also interesting to see how much the designs mirror fictional robots.

And of course, now you know what the robot apocalypse will look like :D

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