DARPA, the United States defense research agency known for their self-driving car grand challenge, recently launched a new challenge: the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). This time, the target is to create and control a humanoid robot to transverse and operate in an environment designed for humans. With recent events such as the Fukashima disaster, DARPA hopes to have robots capable of performing search, rescue, and repairing tasks in places too dangerous of human workers. The DRC competition involves a virtual controls track, with the top teams of this area to win a million dollar humanoid robot, the ATLAS robot by Boston Dynamics. The virtual controls track focuses on methods and algorithms to control a robots movements and decision making to navigate and manipulate its way through various situations. Considering humanoid robots have existed for decades, and natural walking and manipulation has barely been achieved, this is no easy task. Any organization capable of entry to the DRC competition gains international recognition for their innovative abilities.
As the only team from the UK to enter, King’s College London’s DRC team consisted of just several Msc students co-supervised by Ph.D students and academic staff. Through their hard efforts and dedication, the team overcame multiple obstacles such as having a small team and low resources. With just two computers just powerful enough to run the simulations and control schemes, the team spent hundreds of hours in the lab to put King’s College London in the spotlight. With over 100 competitors in the DRC competition, King’s College London is among the 20% to pass through the qualification round. KCL is now competing in league with top organizations, such as MIT and NASA JPL.
For more information about the team: https://thrish.org/projects/kings-drc-team