2. Egress from a vehicle (get out
of the vehicle). This was far
more difficult for some of the
3. Open the door of a building
and travel through the
opening. The door opened
inward (away from the robot).
The door did not include a
threshold. Once fully opened,
the door remained open. Some
of the robots had to go
through sideways as in Figure
5 because they were too wide
with their arms and body.
There were originally three
types of doors.
4. Open a valve (similar to one of
the three valves in the Trials).
DARPA used a circular valve
handle with a diameter of
about eight inches ( 20 cm).
The valve rotated counterclockwise.
5. Use a rotary-blade ‘drill’ to cut
a hole in drywall. A circle was
drawn on the wall,
approximately eight inches ( 20
cm) in diameter. The cutting
operation had to entirely
remove all wall material from
the small circle, but within a
larger designated circle.
6. There was a surprise
manipulation task that was not
disclosed until the Finals. The
task required manipulation and
no mobility. The ‘surprise’ was
pulling out a plug and putting
it back into another socket.
This is not as easy as it might
seem. The plug had to be
oriented correctly and aimed
into the receptacle — a task
even us humans sometimes
have difficulty with.
7. Traverse rubble. Either cross a
debris field by moving the
debris (pipes and boards) or
walk across a random pile of
cement blocks, similar to the
Trials. Many robots tripped up
on the uneven and rock
surfaces of the blocks. The
original seventh task was to
mate a hose to a spigot.
8. Climb a short set of stairs
(fewer steps and less steep
than in the Trials). The stairway
had a handrail on the left side
and no rail on the right.
Penalties assessed in the
competition included a 10 minute
forfeiture if the robot fell and had to
be righted by its team. The robot
could right itself and continue on, but
most falls required human assistance.
A 10 minute penalty was also
assessed if a robot could not complete
a task and had to be ‘reset’ to the
beginning of it.
I dare say that most healthy
human adults faced by an identical
disaster scenario might have
completed these tasks in a few
minutes, but that was not the point of
this challenge. Toss in high radiation,
volatile chemicals, high temperatures,
escaping steam, and other hazards —
let’s send in the robots!
Some tracked robotic vehicles
loaned to the Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear disaster site by the US and
other countries were partially
successful, as well as quickly
developed robots made in Japan
shortly after the disaster. However,
many officials felt that the disaster
scene really needed humanoids with
dexterous arms and hands connected
to bodies that could quickly climb and
traverse the rubble at the site.
The DRC Contestants
The charts shown on pages 78-79
illustrate the wide variety and designs
of robot contestants that were
prepared for the DRC. Six of the
teams used the pre-made million-dollar
plus Atlas supplied by DARPA for their
The original Atlas robots used a
tether for external power. The reason:
Large robots suck power — lots of
power — and the tethers also served
as emergency suspension cables to
save the robots from accidentally
crashing to the floor in tests. The DRC
competitors had heavy internal power
battery packs — a disadvantage when
it came to balancing when walking.
Built by the noteworthy Boston
Dynamics — builder of the amazing
Big Dog and other walking robots
designed to be used by the military —
these six foot, 330-400 pound robots
with 28 hydraulically powered joints
were derived from the earlier
MIT’s Computer Science and
Artificial Intelligence Lab heavily
influenced the Atlas software design,
and their sixth place finish Atlas had
650,000 lines of code in their robot.
Boston Dynamics technology has long
been the world leader in the dynamic
stability and control of walking robots.
Other entries were custom
designed by their respective team
members, such as the HUBO KAIST
shown in Figure 6 entering the
SERVO 09.2015 77
Figure 7. The KAIST- 4 lower legs
showing the powered wheels and
swivel caster arrangement.
Figure 8. KAIST HUBO opens a valve
during the competition.