Following three intense months of hands-on work with the Atlas humanoid robot, the IHMC DARPA Robotics Challenge team is headed to Homestead Miami Speedway for the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013.
After taking first place in the initial phase of the international competition in June, the 25-member team from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is competing to be one of the top 8 teams that will win funding for the final phase of the DARPA competition, scheduled for December 2014. The top team in the Finals will win $2 million.
The first phase of the competition was conducted as a computer simulation. At Homestead Miami Speedway, the IHMC team will use software commands it has developed to actuate Atlas, a 6-foot-tall, 330-pound two-legged robot built by Boston Dynamics. Atlas will be asked to complete tasks a robot could face at disaster sites where human action is limited. The tasks include walking over debris-laden ground, climbing a ladder, opening a door, connecting a hose to a valve and more.
The IHMC DARPA Robotics Challenge team has been working to enable the Atlas robot to complete these tasks by adapting its years of research and software development to this robot. Their efforts combine cutting-edge robot control research with intuitive user interface software to allow a human operator to guide the robot to complete the different tasks.
DARPA’s goal is to develop technology for the use of advanced humanoid robots at disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. The robots must be able to work in a human-oriented environment.
After arriving in Miami, the IHMC team will work on honing their skills for the trials, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20-21. “Every day we have done a little better in practice,” said team member Doug Stephen. “So we’re feeling pretty good."
The IHMC team is being led by Research Scientist Jerry Pratt, Research Associate Matt Johnson and Research Scientist Peter Neuhaus. “We are definitely ready,” Pratt said. “We’ll use these last few days to practice the trial tasks, over and over, until we can do them in our sleep.”
In addition to the Atlas team, IHMC is sending to Miami a 7-member team from its FastRunner Group to demonstrate novel robotics technology, developed at IHMC, at a technical exposition sponsored by DARPA.
Also, the Atlas team will be assisted by a support group provided by Atlassian, which is partnering with IHMC on the Robotics Challenge. Atlassian provides sophisticated software development, collaboration and testing tools used by the IHMC team.
To see a video of the IHMC team at work solving some of the challenges they will face in Miami check out this video.
The Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) is one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics related to building technological systems aimed at amplifying and extending human cognitive, perceptual, and physical capacities. IHMC headquarters are in Pensacola, Florida, with a branch research facility in Ocala, Florida.