Robots Respond First with Aid — From (the Real) Internet Inventors

Photograph by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Jennifer Maier, Union Beach Borough Administrator, walks past debris from Hurricane Sandy on Nov. 3, 2012 in New Jersey.

Victims of future Hurricane Sandys may someday be rescued by the “articulated, sensate hands” of Atlas, a Boston Dynamics-designed robot in “humanoid” form, according to the company’s  Web-site.

The U.S. government is paying researchers to create software that will enable Atlas to drive utility vehicles across rubble, remove debris from entryways, climb ladders, traipse across catwalks, open doors and enter buildings in emergency situations.

Once inside, Atlas will need to outperform the toughest handymen by busting through concrete walls, closing valves near leaking pipes and replacing components such as a cooling pump.

The “Robotics Challenge” aims to substitute robots for human rescue workers in the most dangerous natural and man-made disaster situations; the project was inspired by the nuclear  plant accident that released radiation and forced the mass evacuation of 160,000 people in Fukushima, Japan last year.

It also seeks to better protect U.S. infrastructure from terrorism, according to an online announcement posted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

DARPA, a division of the Pentagon that helped develop the Internet, has set aside about $35 million in funding for the program. It is currently seeking applications from companies, universities and nonprofit groups hoping to compete in the software-only portion of the competition.

 

 

They will compete against already-established groups that built

their own robots, including teams from Raytheon Co. and Carnegie

Mellon University, in challenges held in June 2013, December

2013 and December 2014. The winning team will receive a $2

million prize.

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