Google seems to have a way with DARPA challenges, first the self driving car and now the rescue robot. Yes, Google's team Schaft has won.
The DARPA robotics challenge to create a robot that can be useful in rescue operations took place December 20-21, 2013, see DARPA's Robot Challenge Gets Underway .
The final score board showed a clear winner, way ahead of the rest of the competitors:
The scoring was 1 point for each of four sub-tasks completed in a 30 minute period. Given that there were eight tasks in total the scores are out of a maximum of 32. This means that Schaft seems to have done particularly well, but the 32 minute time allowance didn't produce a realistic performance from the robots. The robots took their time making slow movements following long pauses while they planned the movement. As a result there is a further to go in creating useful rescue bots than the scores might suggest.
It is also worth noting that team Schaft is one of the robotics companies now owned by Google as part of its rapid acquisition of a range of companies including the well-known Boston Dynamics, maker of a range of military grade robots. Schaft, a Japanese robot company, entered its off-the-shelf HRP-2 robot which is surprisingly more able than the previous star of the show, the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot.
You can the Schaft in action in this speeded up video:
You have to admit that with its strange wide body it doesn't look too convincing, but it seems to be stable and the arms seem very up to the job of complex manipulations.
It is only a shame that the real world performance wasn't as fast as this video. It does emphasise the fact that speed seems to be the biggest obstacle that a rescue robot needs to overcome. However, this might be cause for optimism because when it comes to speeding things up we have lots of ways of achieving the goal.
Up to eight teams will receive up to one million dollars to progress to the next stage of the challenge and their names will be announced soon. It appears that Google's company will be the number one contender in next year's trials. Where self driving cars go presumably rescue robots follow.