DARPA has announced the start of the next DARPA Robotics Challenge. This time, the goal is to develop ground robots that perform complex tasks in "dangerous, degraded human-engineered environments". That means robots that perform humanitarian, disaster relief operations. The robots must use standard human hand tools and vehicles to navigate a debris field, open doors, climb ladders, and break through a concrete wall. Most but not all of the robots will be humanoid in design. The challenge is divided into two parts with a Virtual Robotics Challenge scheduled for 10 - 24 June, 2013 to test simulated robots and the actual DARPA Robotics Challenge scheduled for 21 December, 2013. DARPA has adopted the free softwareGazebo simulator, which supports ROS. There are two competition "tracks" - competitors in Track A will develop their own humanoid robot and control software, while competitors in Track B will develop control software that runs on a DARPA-supplied Atlas robot built by Boston Dynamics. Already University teams are making announcements of participation. Read on for more info about some of the teams, as well as some awesome photos and videos of the robots in action.
CMU CHIMP Robot
CMU announced that it is fielding two teams; the Tartan Rescue Team headed by Tony Stentz will participate in Track A, building their own robot, called the CMU-CHIMP. CMU's Team Steel, led by Christopher Atkeson will particpate in Track B, developing software for an Atlas Robot.
Boston Dynamics prototype for the Atlas Robot
NASA JPL Team
NASA JPL RoboSimian
NASA JPL has proposed one of the most unique designs - the RoboSimian that sounds like it will use a combination of autonomy and teleoperation similar to their planetary rovers.
DRC-Hubo Team Video
Purdue University, Columbia University, University of Delaware, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indiana University, Ohio State University, Swarthmore College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are joining forces with Drexel University to form a Drexel-led team named DRC-Hubo on Track A. The Drexel team will use an upgraded HUBO II robot developed at KAIST. (see the Purdue press release and the Drexel news release)
Virginia Tech Team
A Virginia Tech news release says the University will field a Track A robot named THOR (Tactical Hazardous Operations Robot). Dennis Hong of Virginia Tech also notes that this competition is "This is the craziest, boldest, most expensive, most challenging, yet possibly the most important robotics project in the history of mankind".
Raytheon will field a Track A team and proposes to build a robot called Guardian, which will be an extension of exoskeleton research the company has done.
SCHAFT, Inc. Team
SCHAFT Inc will field a Track A team utilizing the strange little robot with big arms pictured above.
NASA Johnson Space Center Team
NASA Johnson Space Center is getting in on the fun too with an idea for a humanoid robot "capable of performing dynamic, dexterous and perception-intensive tasks in a variety of scenarios". And, if that artist's conception look a bit familiar it's because they'll be basing their design on the same technologies they put into very the successful (and famous) Robonaut.
RE2 / UTA Team
According to a press release (PDF format) a Pittsburgh company, RE2, will also field a team in partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington. No photos or video have turned up for this entry yet.