DARPA Putting More Time, Money Into Humanoid Robot

robot-challengeThe Pentagon is giving more time and money to companies that have shown promise in fielding a humanoid robot.

Eleven of 16 firms that put their robot prototypes through their paces in June at have now been given an additional six months and $1.5 million each by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to continue their work, the Pentagon said on July 15.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, or DRC, was originally scheduled to end with a winning robot in December, but has now been pushed back to June.

The 11 teams receiving DARPA funds will also be competing against privately funded teams, both domestic and international.

The Pentagon characterizes the humanoid robot it is looking to develop as an asset that could be deployed worldwide to assist first responders in rescue operations.

If there is also a weaponized version a la The Terminator anywhere in the plan the Pentagon has not said so.

The winning team of the DARPA Robotics Challenge will be awarded $2 million.

The extended time and increased budget was not because of missed timetables or disappointment with technologies, but actually because the trials held in Florida last December were so successful, according to a report in the National Defense, the news magazine of the National Defense Industry Association.

Gill Pratt, DRC program manager, told the magazine this month that “things went better than we expected at the DRC trials,” resulting in DARPA deciding to “raise the bar even more than what we had planned from the beginning.”

And since that means a greater challenge, additional time and money was appropriated to the DARPA teams, he said.

DARPA is expected to spend about $95 million on the program through 2015. The DRC began in 2012.

Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com.


About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • lance

    More proof that humanity has gotten lazy where a ambulance driver must be a robot because people gotten to lazy to help hurt people.

    Is Skynet next the idiots who run Obama’s military will want it.

    • Tiger

      No, the next step is a Real Commander Data on the CVN Enterprise.

      • Blake

        I can’t wait to hear him laugh for the first time

    • ajspades

      Show some initiative and do research. No where in this article is an ambulance or driver mentioned. The DRC humanoid robots are designed to go where it would be too dangerous to send human rescuers (unstable buildings, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive (CBRNE) disasters, etc).
      http://www.theroboticschallenge.org/ http://www.theroboticschallenge.org/gallery http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/DARPA_

      • A.g.

        Same “we will save everyone, don’t worry” myth than with the synthetic tissus…

        Who will you save from any real NRBC incident ? Honestly ?
        Oh and wait, on an instable bulding you send robot with how much… 2 or 2.5 times the weight of an human. Robot with an equilibrium controled by software. Nice.

        Fancy hollywood “All will be good” propaganda with public funds.

      • Anthony

        Just don’t program them with self preservation computations capabilities. This has been experimented with where several computers would lie about their information to other computers in order to preserve power resources for its preservation.

      • Anthony

        Just don’t program them with self preservation computations capabilities. This has been experimented with where several computers would lie to one another in order to preserve power resources for its own preservation.

        • A.g.

          And of course you share TOTALITY of every (food, money, heat, safe and confortable place) power ressources you have when any human ask.
          That’s nice. Really.

      • Isaiah

        Thank you for being the only one with some sense

  • Bernard

    This development has an enormous potential to save lives. If DARPA is successful here, then this will be one of their greatest contributions to humanity in a long time. Just imagine how many people could be saved from fires, collapsed buildings, floods, etc. that would have otherwise been left behind because of the risks. Now those risks will be mostly gone.

    • A.g.

      To read Humanity in a coment about robot sent to saving life more than human doing the task is slighty ironic.
      At best.

      • shnerk

        Better to send in a robot and not risk any humans.

        • A.g.

          If you prefer send a machine than take the risk to save lives yourself, you’re no longer human.
          That’s the same kind of generosity than the lone 5 dollars given to the red cross the christmas day.
          If the situation could be managed only by machine you won’t save anybody and you know it. But for your heart and the public it will be fine cause you send an onerous machine on the wreckage.
          A certain kind of courage too if the level of risk could be managed by human.
          And who will be promote or decorate for exceptional valor, the man who press the button ? Who will you give as exemple to follow, the man who clean the sensor or of the robot ?
          Lethal risk is the core of the rescue activities. Dnying and refuse this statement is really really bothering.
          This kind of device disempower people by erasing the human factor on an essential department of the society.
          That’s perhaps the goal finally and obviously everybody agree.

  • guest


    • Tiger

      Cylons were worse…

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        [mental image of Number Six. Or Number Eight. Or Number Six AND Number Eight]…..exactly how are we defining “worse” here?

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • It makes sense to make humanoid robots, since most things are designed for use by humans. It would be worth it alone in just logistics, you can have “troops” to load and unload trucks, etc, that never need a break, feel the weather, get tired, or throw out their back.

  • Rat

    I’m sure the Marines will want a STOVL version….

  • hibeam

    Your brain is an analog computer about the size of a large meatloaf. If you think its impossible to build an artificial computer that is in every way superior then maybe your particular brain is the size of a McNugget.

    • guest

      The goal of DRC is not to create an android “in every way superior”. It is to create humanoid robots capable of navigating obstacle courses and perform simple tasks (opening doors, moving debris, operating simple machines). These types of tasks are more on par with chimps, gorillas, and other primates. You are smarter than a chimp, right?

    • Blake

      Why did you post this?
      No one else even said anything about it being impossible to build an artificial brain.
      Do you enjoy bringing up random and meaningless confrontation?

    • Also, with today’s technology, it is impossible to build an AI that equals human intelligence, much less be superior. Just getting a robot to understand, “go to the truck and get the blue medical bag” is a huge deal to have it complete. So this competition is a big deal, getting robots to perform under real world tasks and being able to navigate a building is a big task for the programmers. Perhaps you’re not the most qualified to be making judgments about other people’s brain capacity.

    • Kevin Smithwick

      Touché for creativity haha

  • rtsy

    Every time I see these robots I can’t help but imagine a carrier filled with them, loading missiles onto UCAVs.

  • tiff

    DARPA should be banned from spending money on new humanoid projects until they figure out all causes of failure on GW Bush and Dick Cheney.

  • Tad

    In terms of aiding first responders, why would the human shape be desired? For example, small areas would need something the size and shape of a mouse or a cat, pipes might require something like a snake, while many situations would call for something shaped like an insect.

    • How is a robot the size of a mouse or insect going to carry somebody? Can it open a door? Can it carry equipment up five flights of stair? The robots you’re suggesting already exist and are pretty much only good for letting you see, not actually doing anything.

    • Bernard

      Buildings are designed for humans, that’s why you need a humanoid robot to access buildings and operate door knobs, water valves, etc.

  • nick987654

    I can imagine a stealth plane like an F-35 dropping a robot from its internal bay (with a parachute ) to survey a particular strategic point like a bridge or airfield. The robot could designate targets for incoming air strike/artillery if needed.

  • rtsy

    The requirements for the challenge mention “supervised autonomy”. Does this mean they’ll be operated from a cargo container on the other side of the world?