Atlas, which stands 190 cm and weighs 150 kg, is a rugged robot with
bare metal frames pulled up its arm by tele-op. WPI, which is located
in the Boston area, is refining their robot for a robot contest on 20
and 21th this month in Miami. The team’s slogan is to "develop a robot
which can function in even FUKUSHIMA." The competition will be held by
DARPA. Teams compete there robots' "practical capability" at disaster
sites where humans cannot get close because of severe radiation, for
example. Many teams including universities and companies are competing.
One month after Fukushima, iRobot's PackBot was deployed to the site.
It had certain success in investigating and taking pictures of the
disaster site. However, it didn't function perfectly under the severe
circumstances with tons of debris. WPI members felt bad and were
frustrated about this. Team leader Matt DeDonato, who specializes
Robotics Engineering, is spirited, saying "We want to leverage the
lessons learned in Fukushima" Tasks are categorized into eight areas.
The only Japanese representative on the team, Hirotaka Moriguchi,
specializes in Artificial Intelligence. He is working on debris task in
which the robot remove 10 pieces of debris to go through a blocked
doorway. "To simulate severe conditions, network bandwidth is limited
to be very small. The operator can only see rough images. Reliably
grasping debris is really challenging," Mr. Moriguchi says. They’ve
been trying to improve the accuracy of motion more and more. The team
aims to go to the finals next year by finishing in the top eight
positions in the DRC Trials in 2013.