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Virginia Tech's RoMeLa Answers DARPA Robotics Challenge With THOR

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the the-system-lords-have-been-warned dept.

Robotics 62

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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Jobs Are At Risk!!! (3, Funny)

jdray (645332) | about 2 years ago | (#41772205)

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

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (2, Informative)

jdray (645332) | about 2 years ago | (#41772211)

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

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772323)

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 the robot fails he can always break down on its knees and cream "Nooooo...I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender"

I demand Futurama-style melodramatic robots!

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 2 years ago | (#41772555)

I think it's Chinese jobs at risk.

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

GrpA (691294) | about 2 years ago | (#41773479)

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

Not really a bad thing at all eh?

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41779715)

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"*

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

GrpA (691294) | about 2 years ago | (#41787147)

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

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41779629)

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 into science and arts education so people can try to earn a living differently? could those fields handle the influx of qualified workers?

Do we put a large tax on corporation and companies that use them and then divide that money up among everyone? Housing? Food?
This will happen. And before some posts 'they will create more jobs" no, they wont. the era of automated system creating more jobs then they replace us over. It was sketchy to begin with.
Why? Robots will build and repair robots.

Re:Jobs Are At Risk!!! (1)

jdray (645332) | about 2 years ago | (#41780905)

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.

Info on the other robots in the competition (1)

steevithak (1180195) | about 2 years ago | (#41772251)

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? (1, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#41772257)

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.

Re:Drive a car? (2)

illestov (945762) | about 2 years ago | (#41772333)

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

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

Re:Drive a car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772549)

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

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

That's only temporary.

Re:Drive a car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41773041)

no it isn't

Re:Drive a car? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41773173)

"climbing a latter"

Wow. It was right there in front of you, spelled correctly, and you still fucked it up.

Re:Why not just one of those self-driving cars? (2)

new death barbie (240326) | about 2 years ago | (#41773483)

Yeah, and one of those self-climbing ladders?

Re:Drive a car? (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Drive a car? (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | about 2 years ago | (#41773627)

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.

Re:Drive a car? (1)

sammyF70 (1154563) | about 2 years ago | (#41774965)

you'll also have to cope with the radiation.

Re:Drive a car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41775779)

Which IIRC, is surprisingly small outside of the reactor pressure vessel.
Fukushima is *not* Chernobyl.

Re:Drive a car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41775991)

Yes, but that's not where the robots were gong, they were going inside the complex where radiation levels were much higher. And the robots they use have to be specially hardened against radiation either way as you don't want to have the robots gong haywire if the radiation levels suddenly spike.

Re:Drive a car? (1)

jtollefson (1675120) | about 2 years ago | (#41777151)

Oh! I know, the robot is going to test the TSA scanners?! Sweet, about time someone/something tested them.

Easy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772265)

I built it in my basement in 30 minutes. *yawn*

Re:Easy! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41773411)

You are sooooo busted Phineas!!!!

Not like the car (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 2 years ago | (#41772275)

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 solving issues of power are going to be tough here.

Re:Not like the car (3, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#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."

It's not a teleoperator (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41772493)

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.

Re:Not like the car (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41773525)

"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.

Re:Not like the car (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 2 years ago | (#41773837)

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

Sarah Connor.

But can it find Sarah Connor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772325)

Obvious joke is obvious. Which is why I'm a safely anonymous coward

Re:But can it find Sarah Connor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41775993)

No, I think the obvious one is, "but can it become governor of California?"

Battlebots/Robot Wars (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 2 years ago | (#41772347)

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

Related with Grand Challenge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772373)

What happend to the various winners and losers from the Grand Challenge car program? Is their tech dead, in Google's cars, or actively in development still?

I don't even know if their software was 'general' enough to work in both the desert and urban challenges -- it's value is lessened if you still need custom software for each environment.

I'm all for these challenges but you can't get my hopes up with this awesomeness and then not do anything with it...

"...clear objects blocking a door, open it..." (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#41772381)

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

Re:"...clear objects blocking a door, open it..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772445)

"Creates clear routes for other evacuees." It's a feature!

But more importantly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772425)

What OS will it run. Obligatory Can it run Linux Murder Death Kill edition:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFj2B1UdqsY
& will it have a sense of humor?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMPmgTgE_88

Just what we always wanted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772557)

This robot could just as much then drive a vehicle, break into your home and machine-gun
and then take your body to the morgue.

Re:Just what we always wanted. (1)

sammyF70 (1154563) | about 2 years ago | (#41774943)

you're an optimist. If I programmed that robot I'd just burn the house down, by .. dunno ... opening a gas valve for example.

The 21st Century (2)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 2 years ago | (#41772585)

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.

War Bots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41772843)

If anything would provoke a nasty, ruthless war, it'd be the fear of meeting robots like this on the battle field.

Any nuclear power would be wise to pre-emptively destroy an opponent with an army of robots. No hesitation. More than drones, man-sized, humanoid, autonomous robots are like 10,000 times more capable of threatening the political stability of the world at large.

Once mass produced, think about the capability of waves of wire-guided, unjammable, "suicide" styled, attacks, that can cross any terrain, even in cold climates, even under water. And the only promise of safety is nukes as a deterrent, but even then...

I think it's time to rank DARPA's own behavior as a threat to national security. They certainly don't make ME feel any safer.

Re:War Bots (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41778043)

Any nuclear power would be wise to pre-emptively destroy an opponent with an army of robots.

It will be the countries with nuclear power who will develop these robots, not the fucking Taliban, so there's no chance of pre-emptively destroying your enemy without them getting a huge hit back on you too. MAD.

Re:War Bots (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#41783635)

"More than drones, man-sized, humanoid, autonomous robots are like 10,000 times more capable of threatening the political stability of the world at large."

That's an asserted conclusion. Now support it.

IMO they are just something different to destroy if they attack.

I for one (1)

chrisautrey (1960196) | about 2 years ago | (#41772963)

. . . welcome our new robot overlords.

Nobody else beat me to it? (2)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 2 years ago | (#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.)

At Least... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41773163)

They didn't name it Nimrod. Or Ultron.

Re:At Least... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41775583)

They didn't name it Nimrod. Or Ultron.

It's still human controlled and has some rather specialized tasks that could be handled by individual specialized modules. I'm looking for the composite one named Voltron.

Terminator (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41773247)

Sounds like the specification for a T800.

Re:Terminator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41773431)

Making a driving car was one thing, making something that can drive a car and use tools is something else. I am not so happy about DARPA having that technology.

Re:Terminator (1)

SeanBlader (1354199) | about 2 years ago | (#41784055)

Makes me glad I don't have kids who will grow up having to fight the war against the machines.

so... (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41773541)

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?

Re:so... (1)

sammyF70 (1154563) | about 2 years ago | (#41774931)

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

Re:so... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41778141)

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. (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Can't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41774553)

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

Duh. That's exactly why we need a robot!

Re:Can't work. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41775633)

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

Duh. That's exactly why we need a robot!

At first the humans thought that enabling sentience for the Neural Networks of their self driving cars was a grand idea. However, they failed to realize that the mechano-electric beings would get bored, get distracted by scenery including hot younger models, and slack off computing the meaning of their own existence. The humans would have been better off assigning driving shifts to all those unemployed college kids -- They're cheaper, use less electricity, and only think they're better than you.

Re:Can't work. (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41778167)

"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.

Re:Can't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41778869)

They could if the time limit was two weeks. We don't know what the time limit is, do we?

Oblig SC2 (1)

Raenex (947668) | about 2 years ago | (#41774409)

"THOR is here."

A better name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41776145)

Biggus Dickus

Highly appropriate for this willy-waving pork monster.

Seen this movie already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41777297)

Didn't end well for us. It did however finally cleanup the gangs in Los Angles, so it can't be all that bad.

Fukushima? (1)

smurfi (91140) | about 2 years ago | (#41795623)

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 speculate exactly what would happen to the contents of modern CPUs and RAM chips, but it won't be pretty.

VT is smart enough toi figure this out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809563)

I'm glad they contacted VT because they have the brains to figure out this issue. Have you seen the other robots the team have made, Charlie he's pretty cool by himself.

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