Hubo speeds to US$2m prize in DARPA Robotics Challenge

8 Jun 2015

South Korean competitors Team Kaist saw their Hubo robot power home ahead of its rivals to help them to US$2m top prize in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge (DRC), with Running Man and Chimp rounding out the podium finishers.

Thousands of fans filled out a viewing stand to cheer on the 23 competing machines, with countless falls and malfunctions keeping them entertained throughout.

To understand just how enjoyable the day was for those attending, take a look at this video, which captures the moment Hubo ascended into greatness.

The DRC is a competition to find and develop the best possible robots to assist in disaster situations, and it’s very, very difficult to win.

Attracting some of the best robotics experts and software engineers around – even NASA was involved – the tournament saw robots engage in tasks such as driving a vehicle through a course, using a cordless drill to bash through a wall, drive a car, get out of the car, open doors and navigate through rubble before climbing the stairs to victory.

Hubo was the fastest to complete the course, by some distance too, leaving Running Man and Chimp (who won US$1m and US$500,000 respectively) trailing in its wake.

Chimp, DRC third place

Chimp, although looking incredible, couldn’t catch Hubo

DARPA program manager and DRC organiser Gill Pratt congratulated all participating teams and thanked them for helping to open a new era of partnership between robots and humans.

“These robots are big and made of lots of metal and you might assume people seeing them would be filled with fear and anxiety,” Pratt said.

“But we heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell. And what did people do every time a robot scored a point? They cheered! It’s an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC—the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another.”

As Pratt mentions, the falls will perhaps live longest in the memory. So here they are:

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic