These 24 amazing robots are about to do battle for US$2m

5 Jun 2015

The coolest robotics competition around is about to get going, with 24 awesome-looking machines created to help us mere humans in times of strife. Take a look at the contenders for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC).

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 is involved – the tournament sees robots engage in tasks such as driving a vehicle through a course, using a cordless drill to bash through a wall, and even a mystery round that is only revealed on the day.

There’s stair climbing, opening doors, turning valves, getting out of vehicles and running away, and traversing through rubble.

Basically, it’s a brilliant, brilliant challenge and you can watch it here when it kicks off later on today in California. The whole thing kicks off at around 3pm Irish time.

And here, looking immensely impressive, are the contenders:

DARPA Robotics Challenge contenders: Johnny 05 and  Atlas

Here are two little guys called Johnny 05 and Atlas (right). Johnny 05 is Team Hector’s challenger, coming from Germany. Atlas, however, comes from Hong Kong & the US with Team HKU.

What’s pretty cool is Johnny 05’s software will be released open source at the end of the competition.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Kaist and MIT

Hubo and Helios (right) come from South Korea and the US respectively. Helios is an MIT creation and has the best dance arms, clearly. Also, the team behind him have form, competing almost a decade ago in a DARPA self-driving vehicle challenge. But there’s something about Hubo…

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Metal Rebel and Cog Burn

Metal Rebel and Cog-Burn are both American, with the former a “full-sized humanoid”. But that’s nothing, check out Cog-Burn’s moves!

At just 27kg, the latter is certainly on the lightweight side of things, and his team is called Grit, which is cool.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, HRP2 and Running Man

HRP2 comes all the way from Tokyo, Japan, with Running Man jogging in from Florida in the US.

Running Man comes from a powerful team, namely those from Boston Dynamics. Since the trials it has been overhauled to be quieter and self-contained with power, computing, cooling, and communication all onboard and wireless.


DARPA Robotics Challenge, Thor and Hercules

Both American, Thor and Hercules do look the part. Thor has a team of 35 behind it, coming from both LA and Pennsylvania.

Hercules, meanwhile, can stand up very straight and comes from “the only small business-run team to advance to the DRC Finals with DARPA funding”.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Walk-Man and Warner

Walk-Man comes from Italy, rocking a cool electro feel and coming from Pisa, of the tilted tower.
Warner (right) comes from a group of people from both Pittsburgh and Worcester (MA).

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Chimp, Aero and HRP2+

Chimp is the robot that stands out most from the final 24, so here’s some info. Chimp rolls on rubberised tracks like a tank, drives on all fours over obstacles, then stands up on its hind legs to turn valves, use tools, and perform similar tasks. Team Aero’s  (middle) sole goal is “to develop a robot that is both beautiful and sleek.” Legends. While HRP2 (right) is, you guessed it, HRP’s brother. He looks very Transformers, and we like that.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Hydra, Jaxon and Momaro.

Hydra (left) has actually withdrawn from the competition, but the Japanese robot looks so unlike the others who qualified that we thought we should show you. Jaxon, also Japanese, is presumably a tip-toe expert, while the German Nimbro looks like it can probably do everything, while not looking all that humanoid.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, Leo, Escher and Florian.

Leo (left) and Escher both hail from the US, while Florian (right) has dual nationality, meaning it can tog out for both the US and Germany.

Leo has pedigree, its backers coming from Lockheed Martin, while Esher’s stand-out talents are a two-hour working life and a cool mapping ability.

Florian’s researchers hail from from six research groups spread across nine timezones, with individual members from six countries. It’s the Federation, amongst Klingons and Ferengi.

DARPA Robotics Challenge, RoboSimian, Thormang and Florian.

Last but certainly not least are a trio of pretty awesome-looking beasts. There’s RoboSimian (left), which has been created by Jet Propulsion Labs. Yep, that’s NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs. So expect fireworks.

Thormang is trying for one last hurrah, think Federer at Wimbledon in a few weeks. Already witnessing its replacement steal the plaudits, here’s hoping for a fine swan song.

Thormang 2 (right) is just a really cool piece of kit, coming from the same team in Seoul and being an upgrade on its buddy to the left. Check it out here in its trials.

The main picture is RoboSimian, via JPL/NASA.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic