This past August, MIT unboxed the impressive Atlas Robot for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, revealing a rather massive piece of machinery complete with various tethers that provide it with fluid and other necessities. In the next six or so months, MIT aims to get rid of those cables, among other things.
Late last year we mentioned that DARPA was working on a new project to create a next generation vertical takeoff and landing aircraft or VTOL. The project is called X-Plane and the goal is to design aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter but fly much faster than a helicopter.
The US military has been rolling out portable electronic devices in droves for soldiers in the field. These gadgets run the gamut from tablets and smartphones to more dedicated devices for specific uses on the battlefield. Having more intelligence in the palm of their hand is a great thing for soldiers, but it also opens the door for those electronic devices to be captured by the enemy potentially revealing data that could be catastrophic in a battle.
IBM has been in the news frequently this month, the latest of which involves a new contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- better known as DARPA -- to bring its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) to reality, making self-destructing electronics a variable technology.
DARPA has announced the launch of a public website offering anyone access to its open source offerings, the Open Catalog. With this comes the hope easy access will facilitate more rapid development of software that meets government needs, allowing experts to build upon the foundation laid by others.
Artificial whiskers made of incredibly thin carbon nanotubes could give robots cat-like sensing abilities and allow hair-thin distributed sensors to track weather patterns and more, researchers at Berkeley claim. The new nanotechnology can differentiate as little pressure as a single Pascal - which the team at Berkeley Lab and University of California Berkeley say is about the same as a dollar bill resting on a table - making them around ten times as sensitive as existing sensors.
There are several teams participating in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The contest is to see what team can create a robot that is capable of performing a set of specific tasks. The robots developed may one day be able to help humans in an emergency situation like a nuclear meltdown or other challenge. One of the teams participating is the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL.
The Google-owned Japanese robotics company SCHAFT has won the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials by a wide margin. It scored 27 out of 32 points, beating its nearest competitor IHMC Robotics by seven points. Coming up third was Tartan rescue with 18 points, and MIT following that with 16 points.
Carnegie Mellon University has been working on its CHIMP robot that will participate in the DARPA Robotic Challenge for a long time. The first time we talked about the robot was in March of this year when CHIMP was first announced. The university has announced that CHIMP will be taking part in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials on December 20-24.
Sikorsky as announced that it has been granted a contract by DARPA to develop phase 1 of the X-Plane program. The X-Plane to be designed under the contract is a vertical take off and landing experimental aircraft. The contract is worth $15 million to Sikorsky and will see the company begin development of a high speed aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing and hovering like a helicopter.
DARPA has been hosting a Robotics Challenge since last year that challenged some participants to create robots that can be used in the real world. The official name for the Valkyrie robot given to it by NASA is R5. The bot stands 1.9 meters tall and weighs in at 125 kilograms. The robot has 44 degrees of freedom and is powered by batteries.