Google Robot Wins Pentagon Competition
Completes Fukushima-inspired obstacle course
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Dec 24, 2013 6:13 AM CST
The Schaft robot, by a Japanese firm purchased by Google, won the competition.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – One of Google's recent robotics acquisitions cruised to victory in a Pentagon obstacle course meant to simulate a robot rescue. The Schaft robot, by a Japanese firm Google recently bought, was the top scorer in the eight-task event, held Friday and Saturday, the BBC reports. Coming in second was IHMC Robotics, which used its software to control Atlas, a robot created by Boston Dynamics—another company recently snapped up by Google. The competition, run by Pentagon research arm Darpa, was prompted by concerns that robots "couldn't do anything other than observe" the Fukushima nuclear disaster, says a competition organizer.

"What they needed was a robot to go into that reactor building and shut off the valves," Gill Pratt adds. The BBC lists competitors' tasks. Robots had to:

  • drive a vehicle through a course
  • climb a ladder
  • clear debris
  • open a door using a lever handle
  • make their way over ramps, steps, and blocks
  • drill a triangle into a wall
  • shut air valves using wheels and levers
  • unravel a hose and attach it to a wall
Schaft's winning robot is nearly five feet tall and is powered by a capacitor, not a battery, the BBC notes. It scored 27 out of 32 points, far ahead of IHMC's 20. The New York Times calls its performance "almost flawless," noting the lost points came only because wind blew a door from its clutches and because it couldn't step out of a vehicle after it completed an obstacle course. Eight of the top 16 teams can now access up to $1 million in Darpa funds, ahead of next year's finals, which have a $2 million top prize.

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Showing 3 of 32 comments
Econ_101
Dec 24, 2013 10:17 AM CST
Quick, take me to your leader no not that one ! Buy Google stock, Master.
NSA-CIApuppet
Dec 24, 2013 9:26 AM CST
We all know that a human being could have done this better and more quickly without the time and expense of development and competition. Next: given that this competition could not possibly have been held out of concern for human beings the question then becomes, why was it held? It would be easy to offer my guess but more useful to let others discuss theirs including those who think the pentagon IS concerned about humans and those who think a human could NOT have done it better or more quickly..
No-Left-Turn
Dec 24, 2013 8:23 AM CST
Within a lifetime, robots are going to become a major employment problem. When the lines of functionality and cost cross those of humans, humans will be replaced. Robots do not require pensions, healthcare, pregnancy leaves, vacations, etc. Plus, when one is trained via software, all are trained. Their use will become a major social issue.