According to Gil Pratt, Program Manager at DARPA, the Robotics Challenge was borne out of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. Fukushima suffered a Level 7 nuclear meltdown after the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan in March of 2011.
Pratt notes that had a human or a robot been able to open a ventilation valve on the first day the build-up of gas could have prevented the catastrophic explosions at the plant.
DARPA's Robotics Challenge is a collection of some of the most brilliant minds on the planet, and the brilliant and unique machines they build and command. The challenge requires the automaton they’ve created to walk to a vehicle, drive the vehicle, open a door, find a valve and close it, break through a wall, navigate rubble, climb up a set of stairs and perform a task that has not been disclosed to the teams before their challenge.
Every time one of these amazing creations performs even the simplest task it is truly an astonishing feat of technology. When they don’t, it’s good for a laugh and a reassuring sign that a robot uprising won’t be happening any time soon.
If you’re as intrigued by DARPA's work as I am, you can catch the live broadcast of the robotics challenge beginning today at 8:00AM PDT here.