The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is a prize competition funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Held from 2012 to 2014, it aims to develop autonomous humanoid robots that can do complex tasks in dangerous environments.

I’ve been working on the DARPA Robotic Challenge since December 2012 as part of the University of Delaware team focusing on developing various vision algorithms for event 1 autonomous driving:

ImageOur platform is called DRC-Hubo Beta, which is a modified version of the KAIST Hubo2 robot with hardware retrofits and software algorithms for autonomy.  Our team consists of ten universities focusing on 7 different events, including driving (UD), rough terrain walking (OSU),  debris removal (GT), door opening (Swarthmore), ladder climbing (IU & Purdue), valve turning (WPI) and hose installation (Columbia):

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This set of complex tasks requires seamless integration between vision, motion planning and hardware control. Therefore, Drexel University invites students and professors from different institutions to join the ‘DRC Boot Camp’ and work together in the Philadelphia Armory for about 6 weeks in the summer.

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My work is mainly focused on machine vision, including CPU/GPU based stereo matching and point cloud generation, CAT/Kin-Fu based model making, RVIZ interface development and so on. In the last 6 months, a lot of new software packages have been developed and pushed to the ROS repository. Also, many new hardware components and control methods have been made and implemented to this particular project.  Considering the influence of past DARPA Grand Challenges, this event may become a turning point in the development of robotic technology (especially humanoids) for the next 5 to 10 years. The KAIST Hubo robot has been in development since 2003 and its more well-known counterpart, the Honda ASIMO, represents almost 40 years of study on bipedal walking:

honda_humanoid_history_1However, these robots emphasize more on mechanical design and manufacturing precision rather than visual information processing and real-time closed-loop control/stabilization. It was not until recently did we see the Boston Dynamics ATLAS (The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot), being provided as Government Furnished Equipment for the DARPA Robotics Challenge program Track B teams:Atlas_4437_shrunk-1373567699341

This robot shows perfect combination of sensing and control, and it only takes them less than a years to develop the prototype from PETMAN after they get the $10.9 million contract from DARPA in August 2012. This is an example of how the DRC project speeds up robotic hardware development. Hopefully, with the amazing creations, imaginations and explorations from different teams/organizations throughout this whole project, robotics technology can really be pushed forward.

[Updated 12/31/13]

From the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge trials:

Carnegie Mellon University — CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform (CHIMP):

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MIT/Boston Dynamics — The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot (ATLAS):

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NASA Johnson Space Center — Valkyrie (R5):

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Boston Dynamics — Legged Squad Support Systems (LS3):

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Google driverless car:

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Videos:

Video summary of our team:

[Updated 3/7/15]

At UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering with DRC-Hubo, congrats on the qualification to DRC final!

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[Updated 6/7/15]

DRC final rules do not allow protection tether cables, which leads to:

Congrats DRC-Hubo@UNLV (Which I worked on the vision system) for the 8th place finish at DRC Final! Congrats DRC-Hubo @ KAIST for the 1st place and winning the $2m prize!

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A New Era of Robotics is coming!

TimeArticle

A full overview of the DRC:

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