$2 Million Prize in DARPA Robotics Challenge

The challenge will launch in October 2012, but the agency holds a workshop on April 16 to outline it for interested parties.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is about to begin, with a hefty $2 million prize waiting for the winner. The goal is to "help push the state-of-the-art in robotics beyond today's capabilities in support of the DoD's disaster recovery mission," according to DARPA's announcement. Responses are due by May 31.

The agency noted basic robots are already used in emergency response, industry, defense, health care, and education.

The challenge will launch in October 2012. "Teams are sought to compete in challenges involving staged disaster-response scenarios in which robots will have to successfully navigate a series of physical tasks corresponding to anticipated, real-world disaster-response requirements," its invitation says.

The event consists of both robotics hardware and software development tasks, and DARPA says a successful entry will require contributions from communities beyond traditional robotics developers.

"The work of the global robotics community brought us to this point —- robots do save lives, do increase efficiencies, and do lead us to consider new capabilities," said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. "What we need to do now is move beyond the state of the art. This challenge is going to test supervised autonomy in perception and decision-making, mounted and dismounted mobility, dexterity, strength, and endurance in an environment designed for human use but degraded due to a disaster. Adaptability is also essential because we don't know where the next disaster will strike. The key to successfully completing this challenge requires adaptable robots with the ability to use available human tools, from hand tools to vehicles."

"Robots undoubtedly capture the imagination, but that alone does not justify an investment in robotics," said DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabriel. "For robots to be useful to DoD, they need to offer gains in either physical protection or productivity. The most successful and useful robots would do both via natural interaction with humans in shared environments."

To answer questions about the challenge from interested parties, DARPA is holding a virtual Proposers’ Day workshop on April 16. Visit http://go.usa.gov/mVj for details.

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