The Grand Signal

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Robots being developed to tackle first response

Photo courtesy of DARPA

Disaster response and Emergency first response have long been the domain of fearless individuals putting their lives on the line at great risk. The Defense Agency Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aims to change that. Hosting 26 teams from 8 different countries in their Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC), DARPA aims to develop robots that will dive into treacherous conditions during first-response situations to prevent human harm.

The VRC instructs competitors to build a virtual robotic simulation that can easily be ported to a real, operational scenario.

“If you come up with a winning solution for (the simulator), then the software that you’ve written for it should, for the most part, transfer to a physical robot in a physical environment and produce qualitatively the same results,” said Brian Gerkey, CEO of the Open Source Robotic’s Foundation (OSRF).

To adequately compete, members of the darpa robotics challenge finals were asked to test their simulated robots in various real-life scenarios (driving vehicles, navigating rough terrain, etc.). Physical trials will be held for the finalists in December.

“The VRC and the DARPA Simulator allowed us to open the field for the DARPA Robotics Challenge beyond hardware to include experts in robotic software,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “Integrating both skill sets is vital to the long-term feasibility of robots for disaster response.


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