The performance of the robots will help DARPA evaluate the current state of robotics, and will also determine which teams go on to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in 2014. There, the qualifying teams and their robots will compete to win a $2 million grand prize, DARPA officials said.
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DARPA’s robotics program began with more than 100 participating teams, Pratt told reporters in a news briefing earlier this month. In June, a simulated virtual challenge was held to narrow the field for the Florida trials. DARPA provided financial support to 13 of the teams that will compete this week, but an additional four teams are entering the competition with robots and software systems that were built entirely with their own funds. The competing teams represent a diverse range of organizations and industries, including universities, software firms, small businesses and even two separate groups from NASA.
The rules of the game
This week’s trials will consist of eight physical tasks that test the robots’ perception, autonomous decision-making skills, mobility, strength and dexterity. Some of the tasks include climbing a ladder; navigating across different types of tricky, uneven terrain; closing a series of valves; and driving a vehicle through a marked course. “The diversity of approaches we expect to see demonstrated at the DRC Trials will mark the beginning of an important transformation in robotics, and these approaches will be further refined going into the DRC Finals in 2014,” Pratt said.