communications. This was quite evident. Many robots in the
competition relying on mostly human decisions and control
would freeze in place for minutes at a time while waiting
for better communication.
Two of the toughest parts of the competition were
when the robots had to: 1. Get out of the Polaris
(“Egress”); and 2. Climb the stairs. Maybe these robots
should have taken a few lessons from Honda’s Asimo who
is quite adept at maneuvering stairs.
Tasks and Scoring
All tasks in the challenge had to be completed in 60
minutes or less. Like any competition, the DRC had rules for
scoring points. Each of the below tasks when completed
were worth one point:
1. Drive: Drive an open-top Polaris Ranger utility vehicle
over a short course.
2. Egress: Get out of the vehicle.
3. Door: Open a door and walk through the doorway.
“Indoor” Tasks (“degraded communication”)
4. Valve: Open a valve.
5. Wall: Use a drill with a rotary blade to cut a hole in
drywall and remove the piece that is cut.
6. Surprise: A “surprise” task which was only revealed
on the second day of the competition.
7. Rubble: “Traverse some rubble” by either crossing
over a debris grade of cinder blocks, or cross a level
debris field that was full of pipes and planks,
pushing debris out of the way.
8. Stairs: Climb a short set of stairs.
There were penalties, as well:
If a robot falls, the robot may right itself or the human
team members may set it right, but at the cost of a 10
minute penalty. There were many falls, and thus many 10
minute penalties at the event. If a robot could not for any
reason continue in any task, it could be reset and the team
would lose 10 minutes, then could restart the task.
The Robots are Taking Over!
Everyone Crawl for
Coming into the challenge, I knew two things: 1. What
I was going to see was leading-edge robotics. No robots in
the world — aside from those that had competed in the
DRC Trials (and possibly Asimo) — came close to executing
the tasks that were to be done; and 2. These robots
generally have two speeds: very slow and stopped. (Sigh.)
Watching Team IHMC’s Running Man get out of the
Polaris vehicle in over three minutes really was both
genuinely exciting and a bit of a letdown at the same time.
I was told that many of the robots used little autonomy
software, and most navigated and performed the task by
tele-robotics which uses a “squishy computer” usually called
“wetware” or, more commonly, “ a human” to make
decisions, initiate, direct, and often remotely perform most
of the actions during the competition.
I watched Running Man drive his burgundy and white
Polaris swiftly through the designated course only to stare
in disbelief when it took about three minutes for him to exit
the vehicle. I learned later that each and every step Running
Man took was planned out and executed by humans,
adding to the delay. One friend said watching the
competition was like watching paint dry. (Sigh again.)
Cool Robot Demonstrations
There were other various robots demonstrated on the
field during the event. I watched the Boston Dynamics’
Cheetah robot run and jump. Unfortunately, after showing
off for less than two minutes, it was put on its harness and
wheeled away. I also got to see Oregon State University’s
Atrius robot — a biped bird-like robot that hopped from leg
to leg like a child needing to go to the bathroom. I watched
62 SERVO 08.2015