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Changes Afoot as DARPA Challenge Robots Prep For ­pgrade

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The robot Warner grasps a wood board on its own as WPI team leader Matt DeDonato observes.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute researchers are upgrading their robots in preparation for the finals of the U.S. Defense Advance Research Projects Agency robotics challenge.

Credit: Andrew Baron/Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researchers are developing autonomous humanoid robots in preparation for the finals of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's robotics challenge.

The researchers are working to put their robots through a series of tasks, such as climbing ladders, walking over rubble, opening doors, and driving cars. The tasks are meant to help robots learn how to work with humans after natural or man-made disasters.

There currently is just one processor inside WPI's robot, and most of the computing is done by off-board computers with data sent back and forth on a fiber-optic cable tethered to the robot. However, for the final challenge, which will take place next June, there will be no fiber-optic tether and the roboticists will go from having a 10 Gbps cabled link to talk to the robot to a wireless link that only gives them about 300 Mbps. To compensate for the loss in bandwidth, the robots will be equipped with additional onboard processors that will enable them to do more of the calculations and decision-making.

The WPI researchers also are considering installing all of the robot's balancing and standing algorithms on a single onboard processor. "That way, the balancing can run at real time and not be bogged down with other systems taking up resources," says WPI project manager Matt DeDonato.

From Computerworld
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