Robofail

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is an American agency responsible for some of the weirdest (and coolest) technology headlines you’ll likely ever see. From cloaking devices to wearable jetpacks to thought-reading devices, DARPA is who the US Department of Defense turns to when they want sci-fi weapons.

The agency is also the host of one of the most famous robotics challenges in the world: The DARPA Robotics Challenge. With millions of dollars in prize money available to teams from around the world, you would expect that Japan and South Korea would have some entrants — and you’d be right!

What you might not expect to see what is arguably the funniest “robots falling down” video on the Internet… Click below to laugh at those silly robots. It may be your last chance before SkyNet awakens!

▼ “Go on…without me…save yourselves!”
“No, robot friend, we’ll never leave you behind!”

[tweet https://twitter.com/WiredUK/status/607830464842170368 align=center]

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is actually a fairly young contest — it began in 2012 and the first competition was in 2013 — but it has had no trouble drawing a slew of contestants from around the globe. Naturally, there were quite a few teams from the US, but there were also a number of international teams as well. Of the 25 teams that participated, five hailed from Japan, including Team Aero, Team AIST-NEDO, Team HRP2-Tokyo, Team NEDO-Hydra, and Team NEDO-JSK. There were three teams each from South Korea, including Team KAIST, Team ROBOTIS, and Team SNU, and from Germany Team Hector, Team NimbRo Rescue, and Team ViGIR (which also has team members from the US). Hong Kong (Team HKU), mainland China (Team Intelligent Pioneer), and Italy (Team WALK-MAN) all had one team each competing.

HRP2_Tokyo Falls at the Door Day 1resaveDARPA Robotics Challenge (Team HRP2-Tokyo)

But as impressive as these robots and their teams are, it turns out the robots still have a lot to learn. Why? Because like a child running around on the playground, they fall down…all the freaking time! And, wouldn’t you know it, robots falling over is just about one of the funniest things we’ve seen in a long time.

Fortunately, a video of the robots’ fails is available for you to watch right now! Unfortunately, there’s no sound…but that just means you can provide your own background music. We recommend scrolling down a bit, and hitting play on the second video,”Yakety Sax”, before watching the robot video. You’ll fall out of your chair laughing or your money back!

But as funny robots falling down is, the Robotics Challenge actually requires significant engineering skill and is designed to “spur innovation.” Furthermore, the tasks presented by the challenge are generally designed to inspire the development of robots with disaster assistance capabilities. So, see, you’re safe to laugh at the fallen robots, because they’re only being designed to save you — not kill you Terminator style!

The challenge featured eight tasks for the humanoid robots: driving, getting out of a vehicle, opening a door, turning a valve, drilling a hole in a wall, getting through rubble, climbing some stairs, and a surprise. While all of these may sound relatively simple for you or me (well, at least for you), they’re the very opposite for a semi-autonomous humanoid robot!

▼ Sped-up video of Team KAIST completing tasks to win

This year’s challenge was won by South Korea’s Team KAIST, which finished all eight tasks in 44 minutes and 28 seconds. In second place was Florida’s Team IHMC Robotics, which completed the eight tasks in 50 minutes and 26 seconds. And in third place was Tartan Rescue, from Pennsylvania, whose took 55 minutes and 15 seconds to complete the eight tasks.

Team KAIST took home US$2 million as their prize, Team IHMC Robotics won $1 millions, and Tartan Rescue bagged $500,000. It’s not quite winning the lottery, but it’s a lot more than I have in my wallet right now!

▼ Team KAIST’s introduction video

Of the Japanese teams that participated, Team AIST-NEDO and Team NEDO-JSK were the highest ranked, in tenth and eleventh places, respectively.

▼ Team AIST-NEDO’s introduction video

▼ Team NEDO-JSK’s introduction video

While we may laugh at the robots twitching on the ground, we do have to admit that we have immense respect for all the teams and their robots. We know it’s not easy to design even a robot vacuum cleaner, so hats off to everyone who participated. And a big congratulations to South Korea’s Team KAIST for the win!

Now, if only Team KAIST would admit that they were inspired by our brilliant writing and let us borrow a few dollars…

Sources: DARPA Robotics Challenge, Tech Crunch, Technology Online, Wikipedia (DARPA Robotics Challenge)
Images: YouTube