Transforming robot crowned the winner of DARPA's Robotics Challenge

A South Korean Team KAIST has won the $2 million top prize at the finals of DARPA's Robotic Challenge (DRC) with a transforming bipedal bot that can scoot around on wheels in its knees. The winning design from Team KAIST managed to navigate DARPA's obstacle course in under 45 minutes, successfully completing eight natural disaster-related tasks including walking over rubble, driving a car, tripping circuit breakers, and turning valves. The winning run was six minutes faster than the competition's runner up -- Team IHMC, from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, who used the Atlas robot built by Google-owned Boston Dynamics, earned eight points, came in second place and won $1 million. Team Tartan Rescue from Carnegie Mellon University, who finished with the top score at the end of the first day, was third, also with eight points, and won $500,000.

The DRC was set up after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, with the aim of accelerating the development of robots that can respond to man-made or natural disasters. Twenty-three teams competed in the finals, with a dozen entering from the US, and the rest traveling from countries including Germany, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong.

The teams had been developing their robots for more than two years and have tried the challenges before. However, while previous trials gave the robots 30 minutes to complete each task, the two-day finals — staged in front of thousands of spectators in California — pushed the teams to complete all eight in less than an hour. Only three robots managed to successfully tackle them all, and the rest, well, they fell down a lot.

"These robots are big and made of lots of metal, and you might assume people seeing them would be filled with fear and anxiety," said the event's organizer Gill Pratt in a press statement. "But we heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell. And what did people do every time a robot scored a point? They cheered! It's an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC — the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another."

"This is the end of the DARPA Robotics Challenge but only the beginning of a future in which robots can work alongside people to reduce the toll of disasters," said DARPA director Arati Prabhakar in a press statement. "I am so proud of all the teams that participated and know that the community that the DRC has helped to catalyze will do great things in the years ahead."

Full text of the article and more images from the DRC Finals 2015 in The Verge.

DRC FINALS TEAM STANDINGS
TEAMSCORETIME
TEAM KAIST844:28
TEAM IHMC ROBOTICS850:26
TARTAN RESCUE855:15
TEAM NIMBRO RESCUE734:00
TEAM ROBOSIMIAN747:59
TEAM MIT750:25
TEAM WPI-CMU756:06
TEAM DRC-HUBO AT UNLV657:41
TEAM TRAC LABS549:00
TEAM AIST-NEDO552:30
TEAM NEDO-JSK458:39
TEAM SNU459:33
TEAM THOR327:47
TEAM HRP2-TOKYO330:06
TEAM ROBOTIS330:23
TEAM VIGIR348:49
TEAM WALK-MAN236:35
TEAM TROOPER242:32
TEAM HECTOR102:44
TEAM VALOR000:00
TEAM AERO000:00
TEAM GRIT000:00
TEAM HKU000:00