You may remember when Plastic Pals broke the story on DARPA’s ARM project back in February 2010, and now we have more details thanks to Hizook. DARPA has selected the following to work on it: Carnegie Mellon University, HRL Laboratories, iRobot, NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International and University of Southern California. Although the robot certainly looks friendly enough, specifics from the original project documentation suggest otherwise:
It should be able to hold an inert grenade with one hand, and pull the pin with the other hand without the need for human control. The software system must enable the robot to perform the Challenge Tasks following a high-level script with no operator intervention. For example, the operator would issue a command such as “Throw Ball.” That command would in turn decompose into a sequence of lower-level tasks, such as “find ball,” “grasp ball,” “re-grasp ball, cock arm, and throw.”
The robot’s not ready to arm and throw grenades just yet, but it won’t be long before the 4 year, multimillion dollar project has been completed. Along the way, we can look forward to seeing the robot pick up and write with a pen, use pliers, unzip a duffle bag, drill a hole using a power tool, insert a key and unlock a door, and assemble an object from a kit of parts. On the bright side, at least the manipulation code may become available to researchers working on less militaristic projects.
Although given the relative delicacy of some of the challenge tasks, I’m somewhat surprised they decided to go with Barrett Whole Arm Manipulators and Barrett three-fingered hands, which are decidedly large and cumbersome. To get an idea of just how big these suckers really are, check out this video of Iowa State’s humanoid robot surrounded by civilians, which uses a similar configuration.
For sensors, it has a color camera, SwissRanger depth camera, stereo camera, and microphone. There’s a contest to give the new robot a name, which you can enter with your submission here. No reward is specified (outside of naming a robot that may lob grenades and kill or maim people in the future, if that’s your thing). Some screengrabs from the video and a few CAD renderings follow after the break.
DARPA | SRI International