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[DPRG] DARPA Grand Challenge

Subject: [DPRG] DARPA Grand Challenge
From: David Anderson davida at smu.edu
Date: Tue Dec 17 15:55:14 CST 2013

Hey Steve!

So, the difference between a real warm-bodied flesh and blood 
face-licking puppy and an Aibo is the price point?  And some clever 
Apps?  Hmmm...

The quest for a general purpose humanoid robot strikes me as modern day 
Alchemy.  That was an idea that also seduced some very bright minds for 
a very long time.  Newton was an Alchemist.

DARPA is going to generate a lot of publicity for robotics and some 
robot researchers are being funded as a result, and those are both very 
good things.  But I can't escape the feeling that they are going down a 
dead end.

As you say, lots of fun to watch, especially with Boston Dynamics in the 

(And Alchemy did eventually give us modern Chemistry.  Just no gold. )


On 12/17/2013 11:36 AM, Steve Rainwater wrote:
> On Tue, 2013-12-17 at 10:17 -0600, David P. Anderson wrote:
>> Does anyone else think this is silly?
> Definitely not practical but fun to watch. ;) This is just DARPA trying
> to push the technology forward a little more. I haven't seen any video
> of the Virginia Tech THOR robots in action yet, so no idea if they
> really work. Based on the first Grand Challenge, I'd expect at least
> half of these robots to immediately fall over at the starting line. But
> the Boston Dynamics humanoids that will be in the challenge are making
> pretty good progress and you can see YouTube vids, so it seems likely to
> be the real thing.
> Boston Dynamics petman
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFrjrgBV8K0
> Boston Dynamics Atlas
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkBnFPBV3f0
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD6Okylclb8
>> As we've discussed before, why have a humanoid robot open the door? Why
>> not just have the door open itself?  (see your  local grocery store).
> Agreed. But DARPA's scenario is looking for a general purpose robot that
> can complete a series of actions in an environment designed for humans.
> I can't remember the specifics but I believe the robots have to enter a
> simulated disaster site, find an available vehicle (designed for human
> drivers), navigate a rubble-filled course to a specific building, kick
> down the door, climb stairs/ladders, and break through some obstacles
> using power tools found onsite (designed for humans), and then diddle
> with some kind of equipment - shut down a simulated reactor before it
> destroys the planet or something.
> For day to day to use, I still agree with you that automating doors,
> houses, and cars is far easier than building a humanoid robot to
> manipulate them. But in these specialized rescue robot scenarios? I
> dunno, seems impractical now but in another 10 years, or for
> super-important disaster areas, it might make sense.
> On the other hand, those CMU snake robots look like they'd have a much
> easier time than a bulky humanoid robot getting into and out of broken
> down nuclear reactors to examine and fix things.
>> Steve, remember how the Aibo was going to replace real dogs for old
>> people so they didn't have to feed and cleanup after them, but they
>> would otherwise have all the joy and affection of a real puppy dog?
>> Didn't happen.   I wonder why?
> In part because they never got cheap enough to seem worthwhile. And I
> think the folks pitching the business model didn't make the robots
> practical enough to be worth the money. There are still plenty of
> initiatives working on old-geezer-companion-bots but now they seem more
> oriented toward practical applications like following people around,
> reminding them to take their pills and relaying evaluations of their
> medical status to the doctor as needed.
> -Steve
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