DARPA’s Plan for Disaster Relief Robots

DARPA has announced $2 million in prize for its DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). The goal of this program is to develop robotic technology better designed to respond to natural and man-made disaster situations.

Specifically, the emphasis will be on developing robotic capabilities to navigate disaster environment and perform basic tasks using a variety of human objects. An additional focus will be in advancement in supervised autonomy which would allow effective use of robots in the absence of expert operators or full communication.

Citing disasters such as Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Chilean Copiapo mine collapse, DARPA’s DRC program seeks to develop ground robots “ capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments” which will prevent putting “health and wellbeing of rescue and aid workers” on the line.

To check out the eight proposed models, go to www.theroboticschallenge.org/robots.php.

Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank is a movie by first-time director Jake Schreier that just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Frank Langella and is set in the near future. It seems like a pretty realistic and non-scary look at how personal robots will be integrated into our lives. It also serves as an example of how they will find a market in assisting seniors in their everyday activities and allow them to stay in their homes and maintain their independence.

This is not a documentary and the story arc depicts how Frank warms to and builds a relationship with his household robot. Eventually even recruiting him into his old business – a less than legal enterprise which we won’t spoil for you.

It’s nice to see a plotline that is so realisitc and accessible. We look forward to seeing this film and others that depict life in the 2020s and beyond.

Robots to Replace Humans

We can expect to see a dramatic increaseIndustrial robot in the pace of permanent job outsourcing to robots in this decade.

A prime example of this is the Taiwanese company Foxconn’s recent announcement that they plan to go from the 10,000 robots they currently employ to 300,000 next year and then 1,000,000 three years from now.

The company is the largest global manufacturer of computer components – with high-end makers like Apple, Sony and HP among it’s customers.

The robots will takeover jobs involving assembly, welding and spraying.

That’s a pretty exponential rate of growth and human replacement. One that will become commonplace over the next few years.



Via Venture Beat  Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons:  Peter17


Exoskeleton Technology Steps Forward

BotJunkie writer Evan Ackerman demoes the Cyberdyne Hybrid Assistive Robot suit at CES 2011.

He activates the exoskeleton by thinking about walking. Sensors attached to his legs pick up the electric activity generated by the brain and delivered to the muscles in his legs.

We can see the pace of progress picking up in this area of robotics and expect that it will have impact not only on the battlefield but also for everyday life.

Though the market for this technology will likely target seniors and physically disabled people early on – it will make its way to the general consumer too. As it will help individuals perform chores and tasks that would normally require additional people or significant machinery.

We are likely to see markets for household robots and exoskeleton technology develop concurrently – though it seems that the memespace focuses more on the former rather than the latter.

Robonaut 2 Prepares for Liftoff

The space shuttle Discovery will be making its final launch in December and the astronauts will be joined by Robonaut 2 (R2), a state of the art anthropomorphic robot. R2, with significantly improved speed and dexterity from its previous iteration, will help the astronauts with repairs at the International Space Station. Through additional advancement, the eventual goal would be to have R2 assist with spacewalk missions and scientific research projects. R2 will remain at the International Space Station until it stops operating.

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