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Robotics Technology

Virginia Tech's RoMeLa Answers DARPA Robotics Challenge With THOR 62

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the the-system-lords-have-been-warned dept.
smackay writes "Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory is building a humanoid robot designed for dangerous rescue missions as part of the new DARPA Robotics Challenge. Lab founder/director Dennis Hong calls it the 'greatest challenge of my career.' The robot's name: THOR" From the article: "The task is massive: The adult-sized robot must be designed to enter a vehicle, drive it, and then exit the vehicle, walk over rubble, clear objects blocking a door, open the door, and enter a building. The robot then must visually and audibly locate and shut off a leaking valve, connect a hose or connector, climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway. The final and possibly most difficult task: Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit."
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Virginia Tech's RoMeLa Answers DARPA Robotics Challenge With THOR

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  • by jdray (645332) * on Thursday October 25, 2012 @07:41PM (#41772205) Homepage Journal

    If one of these things get built, American jobs are at risk! Stop them now! ... sort of...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jdray (645332) *

      Hmmph... the "/sarcasm" tag didn't take...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The adult-sized robot must be designed to enter a vehicle, drive it, and then exit the vehicle, walk over rubble, clear objects blocking a door, open the door, and enter a building. The robot then must visually and audibly locate and shut off a leaking valve, connect a hose or connector, climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway. The final and possibly most difficult task: Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit.

      If t

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I think it's Chinese jobs at risk.

      • by GrpA (691294)

        No, it's Japanese Nuclear Worker Jobs at risk in places like Fukushima...

        Not really a bad thing at all eh?

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Because this technology won't be used elsewhere? You might as well as said "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers"*

          • by GrpA (691294)

            I didn't say it was a bad thing - but it's a stretch to imagine that this technology would be used regularly in situations that weren't life threatening.

            Especially when you consider that for other applications, much cheaper technology would suffice.

            GrpA

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You are right. Jobs are at risk.
      Once the technolgy gets to the point where a generic robot can be program for different tasks, the job numbers in the service industries will plummet.
      Pretty much ever fast food place, maid services, gas attendant, barrista, will mostly disapear.

      Millions of people won't have work. What do we do? I'm not saying don't have robots.

      DO we make it so companies can't own them and peopel can own only 1? then they can choose between working or having their robot work?
      Do we put money in

      • by jdray (645332) *

        Reducing the number of people on the planet, thereby reducing the number of jobs required, is one solution.

        Can't decide whether or not I'm being sarcastic.

  • This article has photos and some video of other robots being built by teams that have already announced participation in the competition: http://robots.net/article/3453.html [robots.net]
  • Drive a car? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161)

    Why not just use one of those self-driving cars?

    The same thing goes for climbing a latter, connecting hoses, and using power tools. These are devices designed for human use. If you design both the tool and the robot to be compatible, you can arrive at a simpler solution that works better.

    • by illestov (945762)

      Why not just use one of those self-driving cars?

      Because this planet is still mainly inhabited by humans, not robots ;-)

    • Yeah, and one of those self-climbing ladders?

    • Re:Drive a car? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @10:40PM (#41773513)
      And when your 50yr old reactor goes critical, you can't send in your bot because the valves don't meet the 2014 robo-sync design spec? Every situation I can think of that involves a robot helping out, involves shit not designed for the robot... Old reactors, asteroids, Mars... If we're going to design the thing the robots fixing for the robot, screw the robot, just design the valve with embedded Bluetooth or some shit and turn it off remotely.
    • The use case is obviously something like Fukushima, responding to an industrial accident no one was expecting. Even if you can deliver a self-driving car to the site, it might not be useful in the particular environment you're facing. Odds are, you're going to have to cope with the equipment that's already on site, which is primarily designed for humans.

  • Doesn't have to be autonomous:

    "The exact type of robot to be developed also is left open, said Hong. The competition calls for neither an autonomous humanoid robot that can function on its own without instruction nor an “avatar”-like robot that would be fully controlled by an off-set human user. Hong said the robot developed by his team will operate under “supervised autonomy.”

    So probably a combination of remote control for direction plus automated walking to avoid debris, etc. Just

    • Re:Not like the car (Score:4, Informative)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @08:07PM (#41772441)

      Even a 'simple' telepresence robot with the dexterity to operate a vehicle and perform various manual tasks would be incredibly useful in hazardous environments—including battlefields. I can see why DARPA doesn't mind it being human operated.

      But I admit the remote control aspect causes it to lose a bit of the 'cool' factor; that's why I'm more intrigued by DARPA's other project, "Build a fully autonomous robot which can locate a single individual in the city of Los Angeles."

      • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @08:15PM (#41772493) Homepage

        Even a 'simple' telepresence robot with the dexterity to operate a vehicle and perform various manual tasks would be incredibly useful in hazardous environments - including battlefields. I can see why DARPA doesn't mind it being human operated.

        It's not a teleoperator. DARPA will limit bandwidth and add delay to prevent direct teleoperation. Balance, slip control, locomotion, and fine manipulation have to be autonomous or it won't work. Human control will probably look like video games - click on where to go or what to work on, select verb from menu.

      • "Build a fully autonomous robot which can locate a single individual in the city of Los Angeles."

        There are no individuals in the city of Los Angeles.

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        And the randomly selected individual to be found is a person by the name of...

        Sarah Connor.

  • Slightly off topic, but the listing of capabilities and the "competition" aspect made me think of how the various robot fighting shows could use a reboot with obstacle course arena and fighting. - HEX
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @07:59PM (#41772381) Homepage

    Does the door have be closable after it has been "opened"? If not, that concrete-wall-breaking tool could come in handy.

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @08:24PM (#41772585) Homepage
    The 21st century will soon begin in earnest. All you young'uns would be well advised to review world history between about 1907 and 1946 or so. This kind of technology will make us all live in interesting times indeed.
  • . . . welcome our new robot overlords.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @09:38PM (#41773133)

    dun dun dun da dun!

    dun dun dun da dun!

    dun dun dun da dun!

    (adding padding to joke to bypass lameness filters. Meanwhile, frist pr0st trolls post merrily away.)

  • Sounds like the specification for a T800.

    • Makes me glad I don't have kids who will grow up having to fight the war against the machines.
  • DARPA is part of our military... but yet, they are doing the best stuff our government is doing now-a-days. Whats up with that? They're like what NASA used to be... Call me paranoid, but when are they going to turn evil and invent the super quark bomb or whatever?
    • by sammyF70 (1154563)
      Call *me* paranoid, but all the DARPA challenges soudns to me only superficially humanitarian in nature.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Call *me* paranoid, but all the DARPA challenges soudns to me only superficially humanitarian in nature.

        I think the clue to the main purpose of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is in the word "defense". If they wanted to creata a HARPA I'm sure they could, except that it wouldn't get the funding.

  • Can't work. (Score:5, Funny)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday October 26, 2012 @12:25AM (#41774019)

    "Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit."

    Under a set time limit? Not even a real, human contractor can do the latter, it's impossible.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      "Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit."

      Under a set time limit? Not even a real, human contractor can do the latter, it's impossible.

      No, it's always possible but the guys will have to do extra work at double time.

  • "THOR is here."

  • The referred article states that one use for this toy would be in assessing damages to reactors under meltdown conditions and asserts that Japan, despite being Robot Mecca (my paraphrase), doesn't have any that can do that,

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that thing would survive ten seconds under the kind of radiation barrage one would expect inside a nuclear reactor. Not at those radiation levels.
    Many CCD images from Fukushima are completely washed-out because of radiation. I hesitate to specula

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