It organizes several competitive challenge pushing inventors and engineering to design robots with advanced capabilities. One of the programs has morphed into the DARPA Robotics Challenge where various teams of scientists and programmers from around the world be used in the strategy of the Pentagon to create robots capable of responding and providing assistance to a wide variety of natural disasters. The robots will have to be able to function in extreme environments and sometimes go into places where humans could not. As conceived by the U.S. military, created by the robot should completely replace the man in the aftermath of accidents in nuclear, oil and mining sites.
NASA is one of the teams competing and they have developed a 6 foot 2 inch new robot designed for Search and Rescue, informal name of Valkyrie, and officially designated as R5.
NASA's claim that its an asexual robot, but it has a few external features inherent in women. Named after the warrior handmaidens of the Norse God Odin, the Valkyrie were known to spirit the souls of felled warriors who fought bravely on the battlefield. Much like Iron Man, Valkyrie has a bright circle near the solar plexus, which is highly reminiscent of that of Tony Stark's armour.
NASA decided to start with the design for the robot used on the International Space Station called Robonaut which also had a humanoid figure and was capable of operating in Zero G environments. Technically this is the second Valkyrie robot as the first was designed for exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa and came complete with a laser to cut through the planet’s many glaciers. As it stands, the new Valkyrie will be limiting its operations solely to Earth. And for that reason the new Valkyrie uses a lighter frame and is equipped with stronger legs designed for maximum mobility in a degrading environment.
The Valkyrie also is able to wear clothing that not only protects the robots from harmful elements, but also buys into a psychological rationale that when it saves somebody they will feel more comfortable touching soft cloth than say the cold hard steel exterior.
Anthropomorphic robot: PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin)
Though at first glance PETMAN appears to be braced by guy wires, it is self-balancing and only wired externally to draw power. Each new video shows off a more polished bot with a wider range of tricks. The firm’s been putting the previously headless PETMAN robot through its paces for the last several years, teaching it to do push-ups, walk, stretch, squat, and right itself when given a stout shove. PETMAN even perspires and regulates the temperature under its clothes to more closely simulate use by human soldiers.
CHIMP and CMU’s Tartan Rescue at the National Robotics Engineering Institute in Lawrenceville completed all eight tasks at a mock disaster site in 55 minutes, 15 seconds. The competition held in Pomona, Calif., was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
KAIST, an institute in Daejeon, South Korea, finished first and won $2 million after its humanoid robot completed the course in 44 minutes, 28 seconds. Team IHMC Robotics from the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., claimed the $1 million second prize with a humanoid robot that completed the course in 50 minutes, 26 seconds.
South Korea wanted to use the system on its DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) border with North Korea. Israel wants to use them on the border with Gaza, which is often just an open stretch of desert. The U.S. wanted to use the systems for base defence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. What has made these systems possible has been digital video analysis software that can detect people without human intervention. When that happens, a system operator is alerted, who decides if the person is hostile, and worth firing on. None of these systems proved entirely successful in practice. These systems are vulnerable to attack and interference, which are the main reasons for not using them. Unless the cameras, and other sensors (sound, heat and seismic) can pick up hostiles far enough away, the remotely controlled weapon can be destroyed, along with many of the sensors, thus blinding the operators.
“Exoskeletal strength allowed cockroaches to withstand forces 300 times body weight when traversing the smallest crevices and up to nearly 900 times body weight without injury.” Standing normally 10mm (or less than half an inch) tall, cockroach can squeeze through gaps as narrow as 3mm (or 1/10th of an inch) and then rise to their full height.
Past research on biomimetics — using mechanisms from nature to solve complex human problems — has often focused on soft-bodied organisms like worms and slugs as examples of animals able to get into tight places. But some researchers believes that hard-shelled arthropods like crush-resistant roaches are actually a better model.
The researchers call their creation Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms. If humans could make a robot that worked like a cockroach, it could slip into places otherwise inaccessible, aiding rescue workers and potentially saving lives after earthquakes or other disasters. By studying just how roaches work even after they've been compressed, researchers made a robot that can slip through an opening half its height.
The secret is in the exoskeleton — the overlapping chitin plates that encase the bug’s body. Full and his co-author found that a cockroach is capable of collapsing its exoskeleton down to a quarter of its normal height. The transformation takes less than a second, and the bug barely needs to slow down to do it. Even compressed, when the cockroach slows to 20 body lengths per second, it’s still going pretty fast.
The legs have an L-shape and be able to turn the exoselet. In free run they move further on the long side of the L, the short side is then directed towards the bottom of the skeleton. There is a narrow passage, then tilts the L and running the robot on the short side of the L. The robot can have feet in both positions move quickly back and forth.
The shell is recreated. It consists of plates which are folded as an exo-skeleton in each other, and can make easily flat to go through narrow openings. This form also ensures that the robot 20 times its own weight to handle pressure. While that's a lot, it does not come close to the real cockroach - which can be a pressure of up to 300 times its own weight.
“It’s not like the Darpa robotics challenges where you go down a hall, down stairs, skip over some rubble. No, no, no,” Murphy said. “You’re going into spaces too small for a human or a dog to get into. Or maybe they’re on fire.”
They will smell, see, touch, sample, run like blazes and they will create intelligent networks so they can “swarm” in unison.
Measuring 60 centimeters across, MTGR is similar to the width of soldiers tasked for the high-risk surveillance, mapping and explosive-ordnance-disposal missions.
It weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain.
Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle, while an encrypted radio streams secure voice and video to tactical operators and commanders.
The system is soldier-carried, travels at 2 miles per hour and has a line-of-sight operating range of some 1,600 feet.