Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
08:10 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
22 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Science
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Maybe not sci-fi, but robots face big tests
Associated Press
Engineer Dave Kotfif examines a hand on defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories’ robot in Pennsauken, N.J., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before beginning work with the humanoid robot made for a robot competition.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Engineer Dave Kotfif examines a hand on defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories’ robot in Pennsauken, N.J., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before beginning work with the humanoid robot made for a robot competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A+ A-

PENNSAUKEN, New Jersey: The real world has not caught up yet with “Star Wars” and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist are heading to Florida this week for a U.S. Defense Department-sponsored competition.

Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated Friday and Saturday at Homestead Miami Speedway for how well they can complete tasks including getting into an all-terrain vehicle and driving it and opening doors.

It’s all stuff people can do. But the mission for the teams in the competition is to make robots that could function in disaster zones where the conditions could be threatening to humans.

It’s advanced but not science fiction. The robots, which move far slower than humans, are controlled by people telling them what action to take.

The top bots will move into the finals next year. The winning team gets $2 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The entry by defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories, made with help from students at the University of Pennsylvania and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, has been tested in an industrial park in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

The labs did well enough in the virtual version of the competition this year to be supplied a prebuilt robot and allowed to continue to this month’s round of the DARPA challenge.

With the machine already built, Lockheed’s team was responsible for the software. “We want the system to be intuitive to untrained operators,” said Bill Borgia, the director of Lockheed’s intelligent robotics laboratory.

During a practice session last week, an engineer used a joystick and a computer mouse to tell the 1.8-meter tall, 135-kilogram robot where – and how – to move as it picked up pieces of rubble.

In a real-life rubble-removing situation, the controller might not be close to the robot. That is why the operators did their work from behind a black curtain. They had monitors to show the view from a camera on the robot, but they could not see all the action from outside.

The robot designed at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University is called CHIMP – for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform. It is just over 1.5 meters tall and is one of 10 robots that were designed and built from scratch over the last 14 months for the DARPA challenge. Other teams are using their software on robots supplied by DARPA.

Anthony Stentz is the director of the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon and the lead researcher on CHIMP.

“We wanted to design a robot that had roughly human form, so that it fits in the environment that humans operate in. But we didn’t want to take on the difficult task of building a machine that is too humanlike,” Stentz said. For example, walking on two legs presents a major engineering challenge, so CHIMP rolls on treads, like a small tank. It has treads on its arms, too, and gets down on all fours for rough terrain.

Like other robots in the competition, CHIMP gets some commands from humans but also has the ability to make limited decisions. “So we are telling it what to do, and it’s deciding how to do it,” Stentz said.

Stentz said many people didn’t really understand how difficult it was to get a machine to do even simple tasks. Robots excel in doing particular things such as welding a car part on an assembly line. But search and rescue missions take place in vastly different and constantly changing environments.

During practice runs at CMU, it took CHIMP several minutes to open a door or attach a fire hose to a water faucet. While less exciting than fictional robots’ capabilities, those tasks are more complicated and varied than robots usually do, such as vacuuming a room.

“We think that the public ends up with a sense that robots are far more capable than they are,” Stentz said of how Hollywood portrays the machines.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 17, 2013, on page 13.
Home Science
 
     
 
robots / United States of America
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Thursday April 24, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS