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Japanese SCHAFT Takes the Gold at DARPA Robot Challenge 51

savuporo writes "The two days of DARPA's humanoid robotics challenge are now over. 16 teams entered in three categories — custom built humanoid, DARPA supplied Atlas platform, and a non-humanoid form — and competed in eight different tasks. The all-Japanese SCHAFT team scored 27 out of 32 maximum points, followed by IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue, with 20 and 18 points. The tasks included challenges like driving a vehicle, climbing ladders and walls, using handheld tools to cut through walls, etc. All robots had a mix of autonomy and teleoperated controls to accomplish the tasks. Full details on scores can be found here. The eight teams that scored highest will get continued funding from DARPA to compete in the final challenge in 2014. Two NASA teams also entered, and the JPL-built non-humanoid RoboSimian placed 5th, whereas the JSC built and touted 'Valkyrie' came out of competition with zero points. Team SCHAFT and Boston Dynamics (building the Atlas platform) were recently acquired by Google."
Reader mikejuk says the scores "[make] the performance sound better than it actually was": " Each task could take 30 minutes and most of the robots took their time and moved as slow as ice. It seems that the teams were precomputing every move and taking a lot of time rather than getting on with the task as quickly as possible. As a result there is farther to go in creating useful rescue bots than the scores might suggest."
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Japanese SCHAFT Takes the Gold at DARPA Robot Challenge

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Looked the coolest but amounted to nothing. It's a wonder that NASA rockets don't break more often
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a women drivers joke in here somewhere.

  • by RussR42 ( 779993 ) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @11:42AM (#45759983)
    I'm talkin' 'bout SCHAFT!
    • Then we can dig it! And now he really *is* a machine!

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:00PM (#45760069) Homepage Journal

      Who's the contest-winning pick that's a metal machine with all the chips?
      Can you dig it?
      Who is the bot who would win the contest for his brother bot?
      Damn right.
      That bot SCHAFT is a bad mutha-
      Shut yo mouth!

      • Cultural mis-reference!

        Patlabor! I just want to know if the robot was named "Griffin."

        • A somewhat better explanation:

          "Schaft" is the European Labor (giant robot) manufacturer that provides most of the antagonist mecha in the anime/manga "Mobile Police Patlabor". The "Patlabor" (from "Patrol Labor") are police robots, made by fictional Japanese company Shinohara Heavy Industries, that help maintain the peace in Tokyo in said franchise. Although "help maintain the peace" is somewhat of an euphemism, considering their tendencies to cause massive property damage... Schaft's most impressive produc

          • When I heard that a "Tokyo-based start-up called SCHAFT Inc." was competing in the DARPA challenge my immediate reaction was "Haha, oh man! Are you kidding me?!" Because I couldn't imagine any other possible explanation for the name except an homage to Patlabor.

            It'd be funny if the people working on the live action Patlabor film sent the SCHAFT Inc. team some cool merch as a bit of viral cross-promotion. Hehe.

        • Cultural mis-reference!

          Patlabor! I just want to know if the robot was named "Griffin."

          SCHAFT's Type J9 code name is "Griffon"

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      One bad mutha of a robot!

  • by Spiked_Three ( 626260 ) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @01:15PM (#45760469)
    I always have routed for robotics. And I have always been disappointed by them.

    Let's talk basics, pre-robotics. Video production 101 at the community college. Whoever put the show on could not sync audio and video, and the final 'closing ceremony' was nothing but a 'technical difficulty' screen. Face it, when we can't use technology to broadcast an event, 60 years after TVs invention, we can not do anything that resembles rescue oriented robotics.

    The robots themselves, were lacking. Not the hardware platforms, they seemed ok, but the software sucked. Dabbling around robotics myself, I understand why, and acknowledge the teams efforts. But the fact remains; even for a first attempt, I saw nothing 'promising'. We (as a planet) spend too much emphasis on blinking light arduinos, and far too little time encouraging software skills. Again, from personal experience, I can see how the teams had to use compilers with no remote debugging, probably archaic monolithic code ('C' and Assembler), hard to use cross compiling, and basically the kind of stuff you would only force on a development team if you wanted them to fail.

    And while I said I thought the hardware looked OK, I will make an observation; 90% of the time the robots stood there doing nothing, that stupid single LIDAR was spinning its ass off. Was that just to keep its grease warm, or was it indeed a huge bottle neck to have only 1 apparently limited LIDAR? To me, the chassis builder (BDI) should have provided at least 3 LIDARS at varying elevations, and the software to analyse point cloud data and provide solid models of the environment should have been on their own independent processors. I get the feeling entirely too much time was required for the developers to do that themselves. Its something everybody needed to do, it should be provided with the hardware.

    Then again, I could be completely wrong. I looked at the simulator code back when it was released but have long since forgotten it. Government funded, intended to be open, but I haven't seen where anyone has published anything. Maybe just too early.
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Well, the first DARPA robotic-driving challenge was an embarrassment as well. Subsequent years saw great improvement, though, as the teams learned from their initial failures.

    • I always have routed for robotics. And I have always been disappointed by them.

      That's because you're using them wrong. Stop using NetBIOS.

  • The whole concept of humanoid robots is kind of dumb to me. I mean I can get industrial robots, or autonomous vehicles like Google cars, but trying to make a humanoid robot is more like an obsession with dolls than anything. There's a reason the Japanese are best there, and I think it's because nobody else really cares about making moving dolls.

    The pragmatic people who are trying to make robots that do useful work don't think about making them look like humans in the first place.

    • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:57PM (#45761205)

      Here is the counter-argument: Should we remake the human world to accomodate our technology, or design the technology to fit into our world? Humans climb stairs. Your robot should, too. Humans can fold in the middle so that they can ride in the back seat of a car, and furthermore, are self-loading. I don't want to create a whole bunch of infrastructure to coddle some dumb robots. They should adjust to a world that is comfortable for me.

      • by aiadot ( 3055455 )
        Yeah, since we're talking about DARPA here, it's much more economical to make a robot that can share some of the hardware like guns and tools with humans than to make new connectors or protocols just for that.

        There is also the psychological issue in things like healthcare or costumer service. For many people I think it's safer to say that they'll be more comfortable talking to a robot that looks like as human as possible than some menacing looking robot manipulator on wheels. And I don't think I need to
    • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @03:09PM (#45761291) Homepage Journal

      I believe the idea with humanoid robots is that if you have to deploy a robot into an unforeseen and dangerous situation, having a robot with a humanoid form means it's more likely to be able to do all of the things that a human could do, and get into all of the same places.

      E.g. if you have a nuclear reactor emergency - especially in an older facility - most of the controls are going to be designed for a human to operate, like the valve wheels depicted in some of the challenges in this contest, and at least some of the building is only going to be accessible through doorways, stairways, ladders, and crawlspaces designed for humans.

      It's the same with operating an arbitrary vehicle (another one of the challenges). Just about any vehicle that's going to be available in an ad-hoc situation is going to be built for use by someone with at least two arms and two legs, with hands that have opposing thumbs, and which is somewhere within 20-30% of 2 meters tall (or their eyes won't be able to see anything).

      Sure, you could try to build all of your critical infrastructure in ways that would allow non-humanoid robots to operate it easily as well, but that doesn't take care of all of the legacy stuff that's out there, and will be out there indefinitely.

      You could also build a variety of robots that are specialized to do one or more of those things without being humanoid, but that robot probably won't do very well in the other types of situations this contest is intended to simulate.

      Once they work a *lot* better, and are intuitively controllable via telepresence, I can really see some commercial applications of this too. One or two telepresence androids available for remote use sitting in a datacenter would be better in some ways than having iLO cards in every physical server. Just about anything that involves a remote, un-staffed facility becomes a lot easier if your workers can "teleport" there by android instantly when something goes wrong.

  • Wanted a SCHAFT robot. I got her one, then she dumped me.
  • The competition accept the SCHAFT.
  • "DARPA gets the SCHAFT"

  • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:56PM (#45761991) Journal

    Here's the missing video for those of us who want to see it in action: []

    • by tibman ( 623933 )

      That was great! I tried watching the full competition videos and it was just too painful. Watching a robot stare at a door for minutes at a time and moving so slow it could just be entropy.

  • Most of the discussion so far has been rather lame. But there's detailed video of everything. Not that silly feed for the general public, but the detail videos. [] For each event, there's video from four cameras - three watching the robot, and one watching the operators, presented as a four-quadrant image. That's all on line, unedited, 9 hours a day from each camera, no audio. In there, you can see what's really happening.

    Most of the time, the robots are being teleoperated. DARPA introduced substantial lag

    • No, not at all.

      From the DARPA page at []

      "development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in the hazardous, degraded conditions "


      "Task-level autonomy is the opposite of tele-operation"

      The tele-operation was something like "open door", no team used game controllers for tele-operations.
  • SHAFT won and he did all the tasks walking BACKWARD!! How cool is that!

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone