The DRC was a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. It was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, collaborated and innovatied on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces that enabled their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response. Three sequential DRC events place equal emphasis on hardware and software:

  • June 2013: The Virtual Robotics Challenge tested software teams’ ability to effectively guide a simulated robot through three sample tasks in a virtual environment
  • Dec 20-21 2013: The DRC Trials occured at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, where teams guided their robots through eight individual, physical tasks that test mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and operator control mechanisms.
  • June 5-6 2015: The DRC Finals took place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California. The DRC Finals required robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks, with degraded communications between the robots and their operators and to operated entirely tether free.

The Atlas Humanoid Robot

Atlas is a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces.

Articulated, sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use. Atlas includes 28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet and a torso. An articulated sensor head includes stereo cameras and a laser range finder. Atlas is powered from an off-board, electric power supply via a flexible tether.

Boston Dynamics Atlas Robot

The Challenge Tasks

This helpful info graphic demonstrates the scoring mechanism for the competition, with thanks to IEEE Spectrum.

Boston Dynamics Atlas Robot

Robotic Realities

The Challenge is also an oppertunity for the world to see the real state of the art of robotics. Obviously much of what we think about in robotics is shaped by Hollywood. The DRC helped readjust the public image of robotics.

Boston Dynamics Atlas Robot