It’s been close to a month since the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) wrapped up. That’s time enough to face facts. The biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years was a failure.
That doesn’t feel good to write. The DRC was a huge undertaking, spanning years and costing millions. The competition had a noble goal—the development of robots that can better respond to disasters—and it attracted many of the world’s smartest and most accomplished roboticists.
Bummer but saying it was a failure and a bust isn’t fair, this is how learn and improve.
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I have to say I disagree pretty strongly with the idea that the competition was a failure. DARPA’s motive for these competitions is to push the technology forward, and it certainly succeeded there. To focus on the mechanical limitations of the current generation misses the point. The machinery is only part of the technology that goes into a robot.
8 of the teams were using more-or-less "off the shelf" Atlas robots and put their primary efforts into advancing the state of the art in software.
Dr. Russ Tedrake and the MIT team in particular were pushing the envelope for autonomous operation. Prior to the competition, Dr. Tedrake invited the high school robotics teams that I coach to present their Atlas robot with some surprise tasks for practice. Their robot was able to complete 3 of the 4 tasks with no modifications or re-programming.
What a terrible, short-sighted article. Do the authors (and yourselves, for posting a link to it) really believe that it was such a bad thing that there were a lot of failures?