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Watch Our Best Humanoid Robots Drive, Discover, and Drop in DARPA Competition LIVE

Right now, $3.5 million in prizes is on the line in Pomona, California. The winners won’t be human. All through today and Saturday night, you can watch robotic competitors testing themselves in DARPA‘s DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). Twenty-four teams are currently vying for top bot, in the hopes of becoming the prototype for the first humanoid disaster response robot.

Watch live below:

The DRC started this morning, and should run until 6PM PST tonight. The action will pick back up again tomorrow at 8AM PST, with the first through third-place winners taking the podium around 7PM PST.

Over the last few months, you’ve probably seen a number of humanoid robots doing everything from walking up stairs to taking dodge balls to the face. However, the DRC is no joke. It’s like a Ninja Warrior for machines.

DARPADRC_TASKSThe competition course. Click to enlarge.

Each team has just an hour to complete eight separate tasks in sequence, beginning with driving a vehicle (!) and ending with a staircase ascent. There will also be a “surprise task” after the bots have to cut through a wall.

The DRC seeks to test the mettle and the metal of these teams to find a robot that can assist in a real disaster scenario. It was spawned after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March of 2011. As workers rushed in to vent quickly accumulating gases, they were bombarded with enough invisible radiation to force them to turn back. If a robot could have entered, cut through obstacles, cleared debris, and manipulated machinery, maybe the explosions which rocked the plant could have been averted.

That’s the thinking anyway. Even though these robots are seriously advanced, there is still a way to go before a fleet of them descends on a disaster site like Tony Stark’s Iron Legion.

DARPADRC_PICMeet the DRC competitors. Click to enlarge.

And like a real disaster scenario, these robots are pretty much on their own. If they falter and fall, they must pick themselves back up or the team can incur a 10-minute penalty to jump in and help. The robots aren’t tethered to any power source and must communicate wirelessly with their handlers. There’s even simulated interference on the course, and even communication-crippling manufactured interferences that can last for half-a-minute. Disasters are unpredictable, and to a certain degree, so is the challenge.

Watch the live stream above, and check back on later next week, when I’ll have some on-site video coverage of the competition and the winners.

IMAGES: Boston Dynamics; DARPA; IEEE Spectrum

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