Robots Compete to Help Save Lives—and Win a $2 Million Prize

Androids – not phones, but robots – will convene near Miami on December 20 when 17 teams from around the world face off for a chance at a $2 million prize in a competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) was created in response to the nuclear meltdown caused by a Tsunami in March, 2011 at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, when being able to turn a valve in the reactor buildings might have prevented further catastrophe. The trials this month will provide a baseline on the current state of robotics and determine which teams continue to the DRC Finals to be held in December 2014, with funding from DARPA.

Each robot will be required to demonstrate the ability to move from a sanctuary area to a danger zone and then work effectively on eight tasks designed to test mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and control…tasks deemed necessary in a natural or man-made disaster. The participating teams represent some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the Johnson Space Center, MIT, Drexel, Virginia Tech, and Carnegie Mellon.

According to DARPA, the technologies resulting from the DRC will transform the field of robotics and advance the development of robots that can operate in the hazardous conditions common in disaster zones.

Even today, robots available to all of us can do amazing things. While our robotically enhanced products may not save lives, they might help keep your home from looking like a disaster area. At Hammacher Schlemmer, we have robots that will clean your floors and wash your windows. Recent advances allow some of our exclusive models to use sensors that detect dirt and determine the optimal cleaning path.

Of course, some robots are just for fun. These robotic toys are more than mere toys…they provide kids of all ages amusement and amazement with their movements and responses to your commands. We even have a robot that integrates your iPhone, creating an avatar that reflects your facial features and personality traits.

And if it’s companionship you seek, The Emotive Robotic Avatar can convey nuanced emotions, which you control, of course, using the included tablet PC from up to 30′ away.

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