CHIMP designed to monkey around in the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Posted by Thomas Anderson

Last April, DARPA issued a challenge to researchers and educational institutions to create a robot that could be used to save lives in the event of a disaster.

The challenge was dubbed the DARPA Robotics Challenge and stipulated some very specific guidelines that robots had to be able to follow in order to win the $2 million prize money.

For example, the robots were required to do things such as operate an automobile, climb a ladder, operate a valve, and navigate down a hallway strewn with rubble. The idea was for researchers to create robots that could help in the event of a catastrophe such as the reactor leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

One of the robots specifically designed for that challenge recently turned up from Carnegie Mellon University. The robot is named CHIMP, which stands for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform. Frankly, it looks a bit like a cross between Johnny Five and General Grievous. To be sure, the CHIMP has a tank-tread like device on each of its four limbs allowing for fast motivation when needed.

The robot is also able to stand upright using only two of those tank treads, leaving its arms free to climb ladders or move debris. The limbs are highly jointed, giving them dexterity.

"CHIMP will be able to perform complex, physically challenging tasks through supervised autonomy. A remote, human operator will make high-level commands controlling the robot’s path and actions, while the robot’s on-board intelligence prevents collisions, maintains stability and otherwise keeps the robot from harm," Carnegie Mellon University said in a press release.

"The robot also will be pre-programmed to execute tasks such as grasping a tool, stepping on a ladder rung or turning a steering wheel without step-by-step direction from the human controller, circumventing the lag between command and execution."

The first round of tests for all robots involved in the DARPA Robotics Challenge is software related. Physical challenges proving the robot can operate in the way DARPA wants will come at a later date.