DRC-Hubo, the robot representing Team Kaist of Daejeon, Republic of Korea, took home first place at this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in Pomona, California.
After years of preparation, the team beat out 22 competitors to win the $2 million grand prize, according to a news release. Second place and $1 million in prize money went to Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Fla. and its robot Running Man, while third place and $500,000 went to Tartan Rescue of Pittsburgh and its robot CHIMP.
Twelve teams from the United States participated in the outdoor competition, with another 11 from Japan, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea and Hong Kong also competing.
“These robots are big and made of lots of metal and you might assume people seeing them would be filled with fear and anxiety,” said DARPA program manager and DRC organizer Gill Pratt, according to the release. “But we heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell. And what did people do everytime a robot scored a point? They cheered! It’s an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC—the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another.”
The DARPA Robotics Challenge was launched in response to “a humanitarian need that became glaringly clear after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Japan in 2011,” according to the release. The competition consisted of three increasingly demanding challenges over two years, with the goal to accelerate progress in robotics.
During the challenge finals, the teams and their robots had to complete a difficult course that consisted of eight different tasks relevant to disaster response, according to the release. These tasks included driving alone, tripping circuit breakers, climbing stairs, turning valves and walking through rubble. The robots worked their way through the course in front of a crowd of thousands at the Fairplex.
“This is the end of the DARPA Robotics Challenge but only the beginning of a future in which robots can work alongside people to reduce the toll of disasters,” DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said, according tothe news release. “I am so proud of all the teams that participated and know that the community the DRC has helped to catalyze will do great things in the years ahead.”