Forget donning your finery to spectate at Ascot or the Epsom Derby – thousands travelled to California for the DARPA Robotics Challenge last week, where international robots partook in the world’s most important robotics race.
Four distinct types of robot took part in this competiton, which sees these machines scrambling across a circuit of activities, designed to test their competence in the skills needed to tacle a real-life disaster. While crowds cheer outdoors, each team runs its robot from a control centre via a wireless link, a largely unprecedented achievement before this competition.
The robots must climb stairs, drive vehicles, clamber over waste materials and slice through plasterboard walls. Each robot has two attempts at the circuit, which an ordinary human could zip across in minutes. HSPS and Philosophy applicants may wish to consider the ethical perspectives of an ever-increasing dependence on robotics to complete and replace human tasks and activities.
Of the four classes of robot to compete- the simple humanoid, wierd humanoid, roller and spider- it was the the weird humanoid who took home the prize. Hailing from KAIST in South Korea, this robot was rewarded $2 million for completeing the circuit in a record time of 44 minutes.
Economics applicants should consider the long-term financial benefits of investment in robotics, whilst Materials Science applicants, Physicists and Engineers could examine the intricacies of the robot as a machine on a structural level. What is the interplay between design and function? What will be the next stage in its development?
Biological Sciences applicants may question the ways in which robots have evolved over time and parallels between natural selection within the human species and artificial selection within the ‘robot species.’