Robotic teams from around the world will put their robots to the test at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals on June 5-6, 2015 in Pomona California.

This competition will test teams’ robots on providing assistance during natural and man-made disasters.

Robots could be the next big thing for first responders in disaster areas. Imagine an area that is unstable for people. You wouldn’t want to risk other people, but a robot? Why not. Plus, you have to remember these robots won’t replace first responders. They are a complementary tool, not a replacement. The technology is a long ways away from being able to replace humans.

14 new teams have qualified for the finals and join 11 teams who have already qualified.

U.S. and Asian teams make up the majority of the 25 entered. Check out the DARPA press release to see the 25 teams that qualified.

“We’re excited to see so much international interest in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “The diverse participation indicates not only a general interest in robotics, but also the priority many governments are placing on furthering robotic technology. As this technology becomes increasingly global, cooperating with the United States in areas where there is mutual concern, such as disaster response and homeland security, stands to benefit every country involved.”

Boston Dynamics’ upgraded Atlas Robot is a popular platform for many teams. 7 teams will be using it. “Although seven teams will use the upgraded Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics, it’s each team’s unique software, user interface, and strategy that will distinguish them and push the technology forward,” said Pratt.

75% of the upgraded Atlas Robot, dubbed Atlas Unplugged, was rebuilt. The only thing coming over from the original design are its lower legs and feet. It runs entirely on batteries, uses a wireless communication path and requires no safety line.

atlas unplugged

Key improvements made during the redesign include better energy efficiency, more dexterity and strength. It’s also quieter thanks to a new pump. “The teams can actually operate this robot without the need for any hearing protection,” said Joe Bondaryk, Project Manager at Boston Dynamics, in the video below.

Pratt says the finals will push the teams’ robots to the limit. “It’s what we have to do to really bring these systems to the right level of development.”

Pratt adds, “We want these tests to be much more authentic, much more like real disasters.”

If you are in the LA area on June 5-6, head on over to Fairplex in Pomona. The DRC finals event is open to the public and admission is free. Go out there and check out the future.

When I’m not playing Rocket League (best game ever), you can find me writing about all things games, space and more. You can reach me at alex@newsledge.com

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