New Robotic Pit Crew Member Being Developed
April 2, 2013

New Robotic Pit Crew Member Being Developed

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The Pentagon is developing a robot that could help take over some of the responsibilities of a racecar pit crew.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a new video of a two-armed robot using a tool to remove a tire from a car.

According to the New York Times, the goal of the program is to develop robots and prosthetic devices for wide use, at a lower cost. Robotic hands currently available cost $10,000 and up, and it is becoming feasible to build these hands in large quantities for $3,000.

DARPA said its Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program is developing software, hardware and sensors to enable robots to semi-autonomously grasp and manipulate objects in unstructured environments with human operators providing only task-level instructions.

Instead of giving the robot step-by-step instruments, a human can give DARPA's ARM robot a high-level command like "open the door" or "screw in the bolt" and it performs the action.

DARPA said teams are now testing two arms and hands on tasks that require bimanual manipulation, like the robot changing a tire shown in the video. If the robot is successful with grasping and manipulation, the systems can be applied to a wide variety of potentially dangerous applications, including defusing improvised explosive devices and searching bags.

DARPA also announced plans this week for a new research initiative designed to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain. The organization will be investing $50 million in 2014, with the goal of understanding the dynamic functions of the brain and demonstrating breakthrough applications based on these insights.

“The President´s initiative reinforces the significance of understanding how the brain records, processes, uses, stores and retrieves vast quantities of information,” explained DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar. “This kind of knowledge of brain function could inspire the design of a new generation of information processing systems; lead to insights into brain injury and recovery mechanisms; and enable new diagnostics, therapies and devices to repair traumatic injury.”

DARPA also announced in March it was starting the Wireless Network Defense program to begin building the proper protocols and technologies to create a military grade network.

“Current security efforts focus on individual radios or nodes, rather than the network, so a single misconfigured or compromised radio could debilitate an entire network,” said Wayne Phoel, a program manager with DARPA in a statement. “We need to change how we control wireless networks by developing a network-based solution for current and future systems that acknowledges there will be bad nodes and enables the network to operate around them.”