DARPA'S NEXT CHALLENGE? A GRUELING UNDERGROUND JOURNEY

WIRED | 5/15/2018 | Matt Simon
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Click For Photo: https://media.wired.com/photos/5afa139bcc8dc93d6a8e759a/191:100/pass/tunnel-183425341.jpg




I can’t sit here and guarantee you a robot won’t take your job one day—capitalism kind of has a thing for automation. What I can tell you is that in the near future, robots will be doing jobs that no one wants to do. For instance, risking your life doing rescue operations after mining disasters.

Which is why for its next robotics competition, Darpa is going underground, with the Darpa Subterranean Challenge. If you don’t remember, that’s the same far-out federal research agency that put on the Grand Challenge (which helped kick off the self-driving car revolution), and the Robotics Challenge (which helped get humanoids walking among us). And now it’s calling on researchers to autonomously explore the innards of Earth.

TechCrunch - Sessions - Robotics - Conference - UC

At the TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics conference at UC Berkeley on Friday, the agency gave some clues to a crowd of potential participants about the trials and terrors their robots may face when the challenge kicks off next year.

The challenge will consist of three unique environments. In the first circuit, robots will make their way through tunnels, followed six months later by an underground urban environment, followed six months later by caves. A year after that, teams will navigate a course that includes elements of all three. Although Darpa defines “navigate” loosely: Teams can either tackle the courses physically, or design a simulated spelunker.

Darpa - Teams - Tasks - Robotics - Challenge

Darpa isn’t giving the teams specific tasks, yet—in the Robotics Challenge, for example, robots had to negotiate an environment made for humans, turning valves and climbing stairs and even driving a cart. But it’s clear that they’ll have to deal with some seriously difficult terrain in the Subterranean Challenge, and do it autonomously. After all, connectivity is kinda spotty down there.

“If I'm going through tunnels in urban environments, now I went from having hands-and-knees crawling to turnstiles and escalator...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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