South Korean en­gi­neers tri­umph in US robot chal­lenge

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Korean boffins car­ried home the US$2 mil­lion top prize Satur­day af­ter their robot tri­umphed in a dis­as­ter-re­sponse chal­lenge in­spired by the 2011 Fukushima nu­clear melt­down in Ja­pan.

Team KAIST and its DRC-Hubo robot took the honor ahead of Team IHMC Ro­bot­ics and Tar­tan Res­cue, both from the United States, at the DARPA Ro­bot­ics Chal­lenge (DRC) af­ter a two-day com­pe­ti­tion in Cal­i­for­nia.

The run­ners-up win US$1 mil­lion and US$500,000 re­spec­tively, in a field of more than 20 com­peti­tors.

But it is about more than just the money, with the teams also win­ning the ku­dos of tri­umph­ing af­ter a three-year ro­bot­ics con­test or­ga­nized by the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency ( DARPA), which com­mis­sions ad­vanced re­search for the U.S. De­fense Depart­ment.

Over the two days, each robot had two chances to com­pete on an ob­sta­cle course com­pris­ing eight tasks, in­clud­ing driv­ing, go­ing through a door, open­ing a valve, punch­ing through a wall and deal­ing with rub­ble and stairs.

The chal­lenges fac­ing them in Pomona, just east of Los An­ge­les, were de­signed specif­i­cally with Fukushima in mind and were meant to sim­u­late con­di­tions sim­i­lar to the dis­as­ter at the nu­clear plant.

In all, 24 mostly hu­man-shaped bots and their teams — 12 from the United States, five from Ja- pan, three from South Korea, two from Ger­many and one each from Italy and Hong Kong — won through to the fi­nals.

But it was Team KAIST’s lat­est ver­sion of its HUBO — “HU­manoid roBOt” — which emerged vic­to­ri­ous, pip­ping its com­peti­tors from the United States to the US$2 mil­lion pay­check.

All three scored eight points but HUBO was six min­utes ahead of Run­ning Man ( At­las) from IHMC Ro­bot­ics and over 10 min­utes quicker than Tar­tan Res­cue’s CHIMP.

HUBO has been de­vel­oped since 2002 and weighs 80 kilo­grams, while stand­ing 180 cen­time­ters tall.

The team — from the South Korean city of Dae­jeon — says the robot’s “unique­ness” is that it can trans­form from a stand­ing po­si­tion to a kneel­ing one de­signed for wheeled and fast mo­tion.

Not all com­peti­tors were so suc­cess­ful, with sev­eral mal­func­tion­ing or tak­ing a clat­ter­ing tum­ble.

(Right) The hu­manoid robot ‘DRC-Hubo’ de­vel­oped by Team KAIST from South Korea com­pletes a task be­fore win­ning the fi­nals of the DARPA Ro­bot­ics Chal­lenge at the Fair­plex com­plex in Pomona, Cal­i­for­nia on Satur­day.

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