DARPA Selects Southwest Research Institute to Support DARPA Robotics Challenge

DARPA is funding an effort to advance robot technology that can supplement or substitute for direct human activity in disaster environments.

SAN ANTONIO--Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will team with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop and support test apparatuses used to evaluate international competitors in the December 2013 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials.

Natural or man-made disasters require direct human intervention to minimize damage, facilitate recovery and provide most forms of aid, but often present too high a risk for safe or effective human response, thus highlighting the need for alternatives to human intervention. DARPA is funding an effort to advance robot technology that can supplement or substitute for direct human activity in disaster environments.

The DRC Trials are a competition that will serve to evaluate government-furnished "humanoid" robots equipped by users with customized software, as well as other robot platforms and software from independent manufacturers and research laboratories.

Andrew Moore, senior research engineer in SwRI's Applied Physics Division and DRC project manager, says the test apparatuses will be designed to evaluate the robots' human-like dexterity and mobility, among other capabilities.

"Robot performance will be scored in areas such as driving a four-wheel vehicle, traversing uneven terrain after leaving the vehicle, opening doors, clearing rubble, climbing steep stairs and cutting holes in walls. The Trials are designed to spur the development of innovative robot hardware and software technologies that ultimately might be used to reduce hazards to human rescue teams, prevent additional destruction and save lives," said Moore.

SwRI also will provide software-evaluation services for the open-source DRC Simulator. This cloud-based, real-time, operator-interactive virtual test bed can be used as an algorithm-development platform and robot-command source, as well as a tool for individual team evaluation.

SwRI developed the Response Robot Test and Evaluation Center (R2TEC) in 1997 to provide objective, third-party assessments of small tactical robots for DARPA and other government and industry clients. The 2013 DRC Trials will be the thirteenth DARPA project supported by R2TEC staff and facilities.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

About SwRI:

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 3,000 employees and an annual research volume of more than $584 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For more information about Southwest Research Institute, please visit newsroom.swri.org or www.swri.org.

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