After the terrible crisis Japan faced in 2011 with its Fukushima nuclear power station meltdown, the United States military set out to build a better unmanned disaster-response vehicle. DARPA, the Pentagon’s development arm, set up the Robotics Challenge — a competition to find the best metallic hero. The finals unite 24 teams for one almighty technological showdown – watch below.
With a prize of $2 million up for grabs, the contest was always going to attract the attention of some of the world’s best roboteers. Among the participants congregating in California for the finale is a team from Google — the hot favorites. Each of the robots will take on a mix of obstacles, tasks to be completed, and adverse conditions.
Many of these challenges replicate the very conditions which the remotely-controlled robots faced at Fukushima. A typical course might include driving a utility vehicle to a building, where a door must be opened to gain access to a valve which the robot must turn off. Contestants might then be asked to break through a wall and climb over the rubble, along with other mystery tasks. By current standards, it seems pretty remarkable that one robot could make it through all of these tasks. But abilities like these might soon be widespread, and hopefully, many lives will be saved as a result.
If this kind of robotic athleticism sounds like a good spectator sport, you will be pleased to know that the whole event is being broadcast live and free, over at online documentary site, CuriosityStream. To catch the action, you simply need to tune in from 10 a.m. on June 5th, and 9.30 a.m. on June 6th.