Field of Competitors Expands for DRC Finals

Track switch by Team SCHAFT allows Teams ViGIR, THOR, and KAIST to become DRC Trials finalists; ViGIR and THOR become eligible to receive DARPA funding for participation in DRC Finals

Team SCHAFT, the highest-scoring team at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials in December 2013, has elected to switch to the self-funded Track D of the program. The team was recently acquired by Google Inc.

Team SCHAFT's move frees funds for DARPA to support additional teams to compete in the DRC Finals. DARPA will now include on the list of DRC Trials finalists Teams THOR, ViGIR, and KAIST, which each earned eight points in the DRC Trials. Teams THOR and ViGIR are each eligible for up to $500K of DARPA funding. Team KAIST, which is already part of Track D, will continue as a self-funded team.

Professor Dennis Hong, the leader of Team THOR at the DRC Trials, has moved to The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As a result, Team THOR has opted to split into two teams that will divide the DARPA funding. One team will be based at UCLA under the leadership of Prof. Hong, while the other team will remain at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) under the leadership of Prof. Tomo Furukawa.

DRC program manager Gill Pratt noted, "The decision by Team SCHAFT to self-fund allows DARPA to expand the competition and further develop disaster response robots. This expansion is similar to what happened after DARPA held the Virtual Robotics Challenge in June 2013, when some teams shifted resources and allowed us to increase participation. I look forward to seeing the results of efforts by our new finalists and new team."

DARPA will announce the location and date of the DRC Finals in the coming months. DARPA plans to hold the event between December 2014 and June 2015.

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ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

The ST Robotics Workspace Sentry robot and area safety system are based on a small module that sends an infrared beam across the workspace. If the user puts his hand (or any other object) in the workspace, the robot stops using programmable emergency deceleration. Each module has three beams at different angles and the distance a beam reaches is adjustable. Two or more modules can be daisy chained to watch a wider area. "A robot that is tuned to stop on impact may not be safe. Robots where the trip torque can be set at low thresholds are too slow for any practical industrial application. The best system is where the work area has proximity detectors so the robot stops before impact and that is the approach ST Robotics has taken," states President and CEO of ST Robotics David Sands.