April 4, 2012
Humanoid Robots - The Next DARPA Grand Challenge
The Broad Agency Anouncement(BAA) with formal details should be out very soon, but for now unofficial, preliminary details suggested by Travis Deyle, based on notes from Dr. Gill Pratt's talk at DTRA Industry Day is that the new Grand Challenge is for a humanoid robot (with a bias toward bipedal designs) that can be used in rough terrain and for industrial disasters.
The robot will be required to maneuver into and drive an open-frame vehicle (eg. tractor), proceed to a building and dismount, ingress through a locked door using a key, traverse a 100 meter rubble-strewn hallway, climb a ladder, locate a leaking pipe and seal it by closing off a nearby valve, and then replace a faulty pump to resume normal operations -- all semi-autonomously with just "supervisory teleoperation."
It looks like there will be six hardware teams to develop new robots, and twelve software teams using a common platform.
Kent Massey, from HDT Robotics, supplied Deyle with the most comprehensive recount of Gill's announcement, that he provides with one major caveat:
Please understand that the content of this message is based on my own notes from the [DTRA Industry Day] meeting, and may not be totally accurate. The BAA will be out shortly and will have much more information.
At a DTRA Industry Day on Wednesday, Dr. Gill Pratt from DARPA announced a new Grand Challenge. Dr. Pratt warned that the BAA will be released within a week or two, so he will not be available to make further comments, other than what he disclosed at the DTRA Industry Day.
This new Grand Challenge is for a humanoid robot that can be used in rough terrain and industrial disasters. DAPRA will fund six hardware teams and twelve software teams. Although companies and organizations can bid on both hardware and software, they will, at most, only receive one award, either hardware or software, based on which of their proposals is stronger. There will also be opportunities for unpaid hardware and software competitors.
The BAA will heavily bias the robot morphology towards bipedal, although it's not clear that a humanoid form factor will be an absolute requirement. DARPA is contracting separately with a vendor to produce a humanoid robot that will be government furnished equipment (GFE) for the software teams. The vendor of the GFE will not be allowed to compete in the Grand Challenge. The GFE will likely be tethered to a power supply.
|SAFFiR from Virginia Tech|
We expect the platform will be either the Boston Robotics PETMAN, or the Viginia Tech SAFFiR platform being developed for the US Navy for a similar disaster-relief function. Meka Robotics, best known for their dexterous arms, could also be a contender with their new HUME legged humanoid. The provision that the GFE supplier will not be able to compete may be a big factor.
The software teams are expected to be able to function on the other hardware platforms, although it is no t clear to what level that will be a requirement. At some point, although this was also not clear, software teams may choose to focus on one or more particular hardware options.
DARPA will separately fund the development of a simulation environment and a model of the GFE. Dr. Pratt's hope is that this simulation environment will be sufficiently robust that it will become an industry standard. DARPA will supply 100 high-end workstations on a cloud for un-paid software teams to work on control of the GFE model in this environment. The unpaid software teams will compete against the 12 paid software teams. If some of the unpaid teams perform better than the paid teams, they will displace the paid teams and begin receiving funding.
DARPA will also invite unpaid hardware teams to participate. Dr. Pratt envisions that some foreign competitors may choose this option, due to restrict ions involved in accepting DoD funding. This Grand Challenge competition will have no ITAR restrictions and will be completely open to any participants. Unpaid hardware participants may also choose to provide subsystems to other paid and unpaid hardware competitors.
The specific tasks are:
1) The robot will maneuver to a open frame utility vehicle, such as a John Deere Gator or a Polaris Ranger. The robot is to get into the driver's seat and drive it to a specified location.
2) The robot is to get out of the vehicle, maneuver to a locked door, unlock it with a key, open the door, and go inside.
3) The robot will traverse a 100 meter, rubble strewn hallway.
4) At the end of the hallway, the robot will climb an ladder.
5) The robot will locate a pipe that is leaking a yellow-colored gas (non-toxic, non-corrosive). The robot will then identify a valve that will seal the pipe and actuate that valve, sealing the pipe.
6) The robot will locate a broken pump and replace it.
The robot will be teleoperated, at least at the supervisory level. DARPA will control the communications bandwidth and latency, in order to make the task more difficult and force higher levels of autonomous behavior. If necessary, this control over communications will be used to discriminate performance levels between competitors and select a winner.
The Grand Challenge will be run twice, one year apart. Given the extreme difficulty of the challenge, it is very likely that no robot will be successful in the first year.
DARPA will provide the paid teams with sufficient funds to do the work. Raising outside money or large contributions of IR&D should not be necessary.
The goal of this Grand Challenge is to create a humanoid robot that can operate in an environment built for people and use tools made for people. The specific challenge is built around an industrial disaster response.inability to apply robots in the disaster.
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Tags: android, BAA, Darpa, darpa avatar project, DARPA Grand Challenge, HDT Robotics, humanoid robot, Kent Massey, robotics, robots
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