Credit: DARPA

The finals of the Darpa Robotics Challenge are almost upon us!

The culmination of years of research and engineering will play out before us on the 5th and 6th of June in Pomona, California. At stake, 2 million dollars for the winner and the title of the most rescue-ready robot. The purpose of the challenge is to incentivize the awesome robot builders of the world to create robots that can help when there is a natural or man-made disaster. While we have made great strides in robots that work in the factory or the lab, it’s very different when we let robots out into the real world.

The robots competing in the finals of the DRC will have to complete some impressive challenges: driving a car, moving over rubble strewn terrain and completing tool based tasks. They have to complete these tasks in the face of spotty communication with their team and under stringent time limitations. This diagram from DARPA highlights the tasks of the competition.

Credit: DARPA

We’ve already introduced you to some of the contenders, but with 25 teams competing, that’s a lot of robot profiles.

One new factoid we weren’t aware of, many of the teams used Boston Dynamic’s Atlas as the base of their humanoid robot design. While Atlas is incredibly awesome, we’re going to focus on contenders who created their own custom humanoid robot. Let’s meet one of these custom ‘bots before the big day.

This is Walk-man.

Walk-man was designed by the Italian Institute of Technology and the University of Pisa in Italy.

Like most of the contestants Walk-man has stereoscopic vision, and a 3D laser scanner that lets it assess its environment, a super necessary element in rescuing, since the ‘bots may be out of contact with their handlers for significant periods of time. One of the differences from its competitors: soft under hand gripping areas – the better to replicate human touch. The towering six foot robot has an even longer wingspan, but it’s softened by an outer skin of rubber that will allow it to absorb impacts.

We feel we should have more nitty gritty on Walk-man, but details of the cool looking ‘bot are hard to come by. So instead, we bring you some robot porn courtesy of DARPA:


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