When Google bought the winner of the DARPA Robot Challenge the rumour was that it would withdraw the robot from further competition rather than accept money for the project from the military. Now we seem to have a compromise solution.
DARPA has just announced that Google's Schaft, a company that they recently bought along with a list of other AI and robotics companies, will take part in future rounds of the Robot Challenge. However rather than accept money for the further development of the robot Google has opted to switch from track A - DARPA funded teams to track D - self funded teams.
In this way Google can square the circle and have it both ways - it is in the competition but isn't accepting military money. For other competitors this is good news because the money that Google just turned down, about $1 million, can be used to allow other teams to join the DARPA funded track.
The next round of the competition was to fund the top 8 teams from the inital round. With Schaft dropping out of track D this means one other team can join. The complication is that there are three teams tied for the next place - THOR, ViGIR and KAIST. Since the competition KAIST has found funds to continue in track A so this means that the $1 million will be divided between THOR and VIGIR.
Thor's Atlas Robot
Google has in the past made more of a habit of buying up DARPA sponsored technology such as the self driving car and Boston Dynamics complete with the Atlas robot. Google doesn't really want DARPA money involved with its projects and neither does DARPA want to hand over money to a big company like Google. The intention is for DARPA to fund small startups to encourage innovation.
So it all worked out in the end.
It is worth noting that Google is still receiving money from DARPA but as a more standard commercial arrangement. Boston Dynamics, Google owned, has a contract to supply $11 millions worth of Atlas robots to some of the teams taking part in the robot challenge.
The finals are going to be held some time towards the end of the year or in the first half of 2015 with a qualifying event to be held before the final date is fixed.
Schaft's Robot Winning The Challenge