The Pentagon today announced a robot competition, putting out a call for the type of full-service bot that could go into a dangerous emergency situation, perform multiple tasks and complete a mission. "The primary goal of the DARPA Robotics Challenge program is to develop ground robotic capabilities to execute complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments," explains the full program description. DARPA will award a $2 million prize to the team that pushes robotics to this next level, where these machines can do more than one repeated task -- something robotics has yet to produce -- which would come in handy in Fukushima type emergency situations. More than just a simple machine programmed to do one thing, these robots have to think and work more like humans, who are built and programmed to do lots of things all in one go. We can therefore expect humanoid robots to come out of this competition that look something like these already humanesque creations.
Meka's M1 Mobile Manipulator
Aaron Edsinger, a founder of Meka Robotics told The New York Times's John Markoff, who wrote up the DARPA contest, that he was already scheming with fellow robot makers over design possibilities. The M1 Manipulator, from the sounds of it, with some tweaking could meet the multi-task requirements. "At Meka we believe that robots designed to work in human environments require mobility, dexterity, and compliant force-control. We created the Meka M1 to meet these needs," explains the Meka site. Though, Edsinger mentioned to Markoff that something more animalistic might satisfy the challenge better. "Analogs to animals such as spiders, monkeys, bears, kangaroos and goats are useful inspiration when considering parts of the challenge," he explained. Something half-man, half-beast, perhaps? Here's Meka in action.