AI News, Japan Wants 2020 Robot Olympics Alongside Human Olympics

Japan Wants 2020 Robot Olympics Alongside Human Olympics

'In 2020 I would like to gather all of the world's robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,' saidJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week.

At the same time, however, getting researchers and hobbyists who are at the top of their varied specialties all together in the same place for a few weeks and setting them against each other in events that are almost (but not quite) impossible could potentially be a huge driver for progress.

If the DRC Finals go well, though, it would help show what's possible through a well-funded competitive event, especially from the perspective of Japan: robotics competitions like the DRC, but also including all the rest, aren't just about figuring out what robot is faster or stronger or more skilled, as with the human Olympics.

Dig Deep: DARPA Contest Aims to Take People Underground

From the seas to mountain peaks, humans have colonized almost every inch of Earth's surface.

The global competition asks entrants to develop systems that can help humans navigate, map and search in underground locations that are normally too perilous to visit.

Groups all around the world will compete to solve problems that help people navigate in unknown, treacherous subterranean conditions, where time is of the essence, according to the statement.

Teams can compete in one of two tracks: a Systems track, to develop hardware-based solutions for a physical course, or a Virtual track, to develop software to test on a simulated course, DARPA said.

The final competition, which will take place in 2021, will include three challenges that involve navigating in one of three environments: a network of human-made tunnels, a subterranean municipal-transit system and a network of underground natural caves.

'I want a Robot Olympics in 2020' says Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe

Mr Abe revealed his plans while touring robotics factories in Toky and Saitama, telling reporters: “In 2020, I would like to gather all of the world's robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills.” Mr Abe said he wanted to showcase his country’s status as a pioneer in robotics and plans to create a a special taskforce to treble the size of the industry to 2.4 trillion yen (£13.8 billion).

If Mr Abe does manage to institute a Robot Olympics it could supercede a number of smaller competitive events such as the RoboCup and industry-led initiatives like the Darpa Robotics Challenge – an event organized by the research arm of the US military to create robots capable of helping in a disaster zone.

DARPA Robotics Challenge: Amazing Moments, Lessons Learned, and What's Next

We know people love robots, but seeing thousands of eager spectators filling the Fairplex’s grandstand, cheering for a bunch of machines when they succeeded, lamenting when they fell orfailed, and celebrating their human creators,gave us a new perspective on how much people love robots and seem to connect with them.

“Why would anyone sit in the sun and heat, watching a machine take up to an hour to go through eightsimple tasks that you could do in 5 minutes?The new discovery we made here is that there’s some incredible untapped affinity between people and robots that we saw for the first time today.Ordinary people, not roboticists, felt this identity, sympathy, empathy for the robot.The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

.I see potential for robots to connect with people and create a society where people actually feel better.Some people will say ‘That’s creepy, it’s a machine,’except it’s a fact of life, we saw it today, people connecting with machines.” At an event like the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, it’s easy to focus on the robotic hardware that’s out there actually doing stuff.

What we don’t get to see is everything going on in the garages hundreds of meters away from the course, where the operators (“robot drivers”) are receiving data from the robot’s sensors, trying to interpret it, and telling the robot what to do.

Given enough time, drivers could teleoperate their robots through every single task at the joint level, but that would takehours, and teams didn’t have that much time—they had to complete all eight tasks in less than 60 minutes.

We saw the operators relying on tools that madethe most of minimal perception dataand allowed them tocommandthe robots to execute actionswith some degree of autonomy.

For example, in the rubble task, we wanted to see teams push a “Go Over Rubble” button that would make the robot scan the terrain, compute a viable path, and then walk over the obstacles—all done autonomously.

Relatively untrained users will need to be able to interface with robots in a way that they can understand and readily use, and that means letting the robot (or more accurately, the software) deal with as many complex tasks as it can.

Part of the problem here is that it terms of hardware, it doesn’t make much sense to design a robot to be able to get up from a fall and then do all kinds of other tasks, because you riskmassively over-engineering your robot.

TheTRAC LabsATLAS got out of the vehicle and onto its little egress platform, and then lost its balance and slowly toppled over.On impact, there was a two-meter spray of hydraulic fluid,and the robot lay here, bleedinginto a slowly growing puddle of green goo, until it was hoisted up and hauled away.

Humongous, hugely expensive, high maintenance.Knowing what we know post-DRC,we think it’s fair to askif that isthe kind of machine that we shouldbe looking atas we build the next generation of disaster robots.

It’s important to note, however, that in a real disaster area, wheeled mobility may be close to useless, so despite how well the wheeled designs did at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, it shouldn’t minimize the future potential and value of bipedal walking.

As IHMC pointed out during a post-competition workshop, bipedal walking lets you move across areas where you only have a footstep-sized safe place to move, and, unless you can fly, no other mobility design does that.

They did combine itty bitty versions of most of the tasks, which was good, and when Gill Pratt commented that the Finals course was “10 times harder” than the trials course, we’re guessing it was because of the stricter time limit, the egress task, and DARPA’s shenanigans with the wireless communications between teams and robots.

The task involved getting to the drills, seeing the drills, grasping the desired drill (a regular drill or a cut-out tool), turning the drill on, repositioning the robot near the wall, seeing the shape, and then (finally) getting the robot to manage a heavy, moving, vibrating power tool while it chews through drywall.

Generally, if a team decided to attempt a task, they’d either finish it or fall over trying, but several teams were forced to abandon the wall task after they dropped the drill or the drill shut off(it was programmed to operatefor 5 minutes;

Instead, it was just a sort of, “okay, we need to grasp and move in these ways.” The teams even rapidly assembled copies of the switches and plugs at their garages to practice before their official run.It did add a little bit of variability, which is what DARPA was going for, but we think that teams could have handled even more.

During the media briefing after the finals concluded, Gill Pratt explained that DARPA used the surprise tasks to “tune” the difficulty of the DRC, and that DARPA was concerned about the fact that at the rehearsal run no teams had practiced off-belay, so they decided to tune down the surprise tasks pretty heavily.

Leo, Lockheed’s ATLAS,also had a built-in egress assist system, but instead of a drop-down platform, the robot slid out of the vehicle on pivoting metal rails, which allowed it to skip the steps down that robots using platforms had to take.

To control the vehicle, Leo actuated a lever to turn the steering wheel with one arm, and to accelerate, it pulled on a doggie squeeze toy (that orange thing in its gripper) attached to a rope.

For example, we asked IHMC what led to the two falls that they had during their Day 1 run.The fall on the rubble was because the foot placement was too aggressive, and a step forward and down maxed out ATLAS’ ankle, leading to a loss of balance.The fall off the stairs was a software bug that caused the robot to think that it had a full foot on a stair when it only had a half foot on a stair, and when it tried to step up, it lost its balance and fell over.

Our favorite run, though, is still CHIMP’s Day 1 performance, where all kinds of things went wrong (including a fall!) but the robot was able to recover and still score 8 points in under 60 minutes.

But what we’re really excited about is an announcement from NASA that they’re getting ready to award a handful of Valkyrierobots to university teams in preparation for a robotics challenge intended to explore the possibility of sending humanoid robots into space, and eventually, to Mars.

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