The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Robotics Challenge is a competition funded by the US military with the primary goal of “develop[ing] ground robots capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments,” capabilities that will allow robots to aid in disaster relief and other humanitarian operations. The first disaster response challenge, which required “robots that can use standard tools and equipment commonly available in human environments, ranging from hand tools to vehicles,” was held in December 2013. The final challenge will be held December 2014.
If you are interested in the development of robots and the roles they may play in the future, consider the following resources.
The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs, by Michael Belfiore
The first-ever inside look at the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications, from the Internet to GPS to driverless cars. This fascinating read demonstrates that DARPA isn't so much frightening as it is inspiring—it is our future.
A military expert reveals how science fiction is fast becoming reality on the battlefield, changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws and ethics that surround war itself. In the author's hands, the future of war is as fascinating as it is frightening.
Biorobotics expert Long creates robots that look and behave like extinct animals, subjects them to evolutionary pressures, lets them compete for mates and resources, and mutates their 'genes.' The most impressive feature of these robots is their ability to solve difficult technological challenges without human input. This remarkable idea could forever alter the face of engineering, design and even warfare.
Almost Human: Making Robots Think, by Lee Gutkind
The author immersed himself in the frenzied subculture of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, following roboticists and their bold conceptual machines from Pittsburgh to NASA and to the most barren and arid desert on earth. He makes intelligible their discoveries and stumbling points in this lively behind-the-scenes work.
The Great Robot Race
The Defense Department is offering two million dollars to the builders of the first robotic vehicle to cover a 210-mile stretch of desert. NOVA goes behind the scenes as top engineering teams struggle to solve the problems of making a vehicle like this.
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