In our Summer 2015 article Robots to the Rescue, we wrote about RoboSimian—JPL’s entry into the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge—and how its JPL, Caltech, and UC Santa Barbara creators prepared it for the contest.
The competition, motivated by the radiation dangers posed to response crews at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after a tsunami struck in 2011, challenged teams to design a robot that can perform many of the same emergency procedures as a human rescue worker.
This year’s Robotics Challenge featured robots designed and built by 23 teams from around the world and culminated with a final round of physical tests in June that challenged the robots’ dexterity and mobility. This 90-second JPL video of the robot’s-eye view of the action shows RoboSimian driving a vehicle, clearing debris, opening doors, and even cutting through walls when instructed by a human operator. For its efforts, it snagged a fifth-place finish.
Sisir Karumanchi, a robotics expert and member of the JPL RoboSimian team, hailed the competition as “a seminal event in the field of robotics, with multiple teams demonstrating significant advances in human-robot communications, perception, motion planning, and control of robots for field use.”