DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals 2014: Google’s SCHAFT Will Be Self-Funded, More Competitors Added

By @CharlieAllDay c.poladian@ibtimes.com on
Google's SCHAFT robot will compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals 2014. DARPA

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals 2014 has announced Google’s SCHAFT robot will compete in the self-funded track. This move frees up funding for two more teams to the DRC Finals 2014, while a third team will compete as part of the self-funded track D.

On March 21, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Google’s SCHAFT robot will switch to the unfunded Track D for the DRC Finals 2014, which allows for two more teams to compete in the robotics challenge. The robotics teams will compete for a grand prize of $2 million.

Team THOR will use the DARPA funds, up to $500,000 for each team, to continue work on the Tactical Harzardous Operations Robot (THOR) at two universities. One team will continue work on THOR at the University of California Los Angeles while a second team will be stationed at the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech. THOR is a bipedal, humanoid robot and scored eight points at the DRC Trials 2013.

Team ViGIR (Virginia-Germany Interdisciplinary Robotics) will also receive funding to compete in the DRC Finals 2014. The team’s modified ATLAS robot also scored eight points at the DRC Trials 2013.

Team KAIST, from South Korea, will also compete in the robotics challenge, as part of the self-funded track, with its DRC-HUBO robot.

It was previously announced that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s robot, RoboSimian, will compete in the DRC Finals 2014 following a fifth-place finish at the trials.

The SCHAFT robot dominated competition at the DRC Trials 2013, scoring 27 points, and was the latest in a string of robotics-oriented purchases by Google. Prior to the DRC, Google announced it purchased SCHAFT Inc. as well as Boston Dynamics, maker of the ATLAS humanoid robots, in a new venture that will be headed by Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android Inc., as noted in a New York Times article. Since the DRC Trials 2013, Google has acquired other robotics companies, most recently the artificial intelligence startup DeepMind.

Following the robotics shopping spree in 2013, many experts raised concerns over the many government contracts that now tie Google to DARPA. Boston Dynamics' ATLAS robot, BigDog and WildCat were all developed using DARPA funds, reports the Guardian. As part of the DRC, seven teams developed software for furnished ATLAS robots. As noted by the Verge, Boston Dynamics has a $10.8 million contract with DARPA but Google is looking to remove itself from government contracts and the move to the unfunded track is just the first step. Future DRC contracts to replace the ATLAS robot could go to NASA for its humanoid Valkyrie robot.

DARPA announced that the DRC Finals 2014 will be held between December 2014 and June 2015, with the location and precise date to be announced in the near future.

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