We spend a lot of time worrying about how robots are out to get us. I get it — it’s good to be ready for the worst. But while we wait for the singularity, we could put these invulnerable machines to use helping us weak humans cope with disasters both natural and un-.
On June 5 and 6, entrants from academia and industry are trying in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. You can watch livestreams of mechanical men taking on a series of challenges as their human overlords (for now) look on in sweaty, nerdy anticipation.
Twenty-four teams from around the world (about half from the U.S.) have built robots that must complete a number of tasks. The course is set up to simulate a disaster scenario not unlike the Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred in Japan in 2011.
The ‘bots have to perform a series of tasks including: driving a vehicle, locating and closing a valve, getting through a wall and up a set of stairs, and a “surprise task” that we hope involves learning how to love. They must be controlled wirelessly, and for a portion of the challenge they must be fully autonomous (“look, Ma! No controller!”). Here’s more from the Washington Post:
If you’ve read about a cool robot during the course of the past few years, chances are pretty good that it was being groomed for these challenges. The winning team will receive $2 million from DARPA, with the first two runner-ups receiving $1 million and $500,000, respectively.
You hear that, R2? Save the world, make bank — and may the best robot win.