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Google-owned firm leads robot competition

Posted on January 1, 2014

 

A robot created by Team Schaft, the Japanese start-up recently acquired by Google, has progressed to the final stages of a prestigious industry competition.

The machine competed in eight challenges and defeated its rivals at the two-day event – which was hosted by the Pentagon’s research unit, DARPA – by a wide margin.

Sixteen teams participated in the competition held at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, and three of the entrants failed to secure any points at all.

Along with seven of the other teams, Google-owned Schaft can now apply for DARPA funding ahead of the competition’s finals next year.

Speaking about the event, DARPA said it was inspired after noting limitations in the role played by robots during the Fukushima crisis in 2011, when the reactor at the Japanese nuclear power plant went into meltdown.

To encourage creative teams to step up and develop robots that could potentially help in disasters or crisis situations, DARPA tasked competitors with a series of challenges that included opening doors, climbing ladders and clearing debris.

Schaft’s robot was able to complete all eight tasks, while a machine developed by NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, perhaps surprisingly, failed to score points for its team. However, another robot entered by the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA, named Robosimian, came in fifth place.

While Google is perhaps better known for keeping search engine optimisation specialists on their toes, the Californian tech company has made a number of significant moves in the robotics industry in the last few months – having recently bought Boston Dynamics, a firm which produces human simulation software and anthropomorphic machines.

However, Google isn’t the only big name on the robot front; online retail titan Amazon has revealed that it is considering a premium service that will see small unmanned aircraft deliver parcels all over Britain.

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