Robosimian performing two tasks during the first DARPA Robotics Challenge. On the left the robot closes a valve, and on the right it walks over obstacles.
Natural and man-made disasters have caused suffering for people around the world, in past ages, today, and surely tomorrow. Our best robotic tools are helping, but they are not yet robust enough to function in all environments and perform all the basic tasks needed to mitigate a crisis situation. DARPA is holding a series of competitions to advance the applicability of robots to disaster situations.
JPL has built a simian-inspired limbed robot to participate in the competition. This groundbreaking RoboSimian uses deliberate and stable operations to complete challenging tasks under supervised tele-operation while in a degraded human environment. This emphasis on stability over dynamics and deliberation over reaction will result in faster and more robust overall operations by decreasing missteps for both robot and human operator. To accomplish this end, the team employs design methods, system elements, and software algorithms that have already demonstrated success for JPL’s unique ATHLETE and Lemur robots, and JPL’s first-place DARPA ARM-S team.
In particular, RoboSimian uses its four general purpose limbs and hands, capable of both mobility and manipulation, to achieve passively stable stances; establish multi-point anchored connections to supports such as ladders, railings, and stair treads; and brace itself during forceful manipulation operations. Risk is further decreased through heading-agnostic perception, mobility, and manipulation in which costly reorientation steps and body motion are eliminated through the axi-symmetric distribution of the limb workspace and visual perception.
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