April 2, 2013
Have Two Arms, Will Work
DARPA’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program is developing software, hardware and sensors to enable robots to semi-autonomously grasp and manipulate objects in unstructured environments (meaning, “outside of a laboratory”) with human operators providing only task-level instructions. For example, rather than dictating step-by-step every movement a robot makes, a human can give DARPA’s ARM robot a high-level command like “Open the door” or “Screw in the bolt.” Performers on the ARM program have already demonstrated success using one arm and hand to manipulate objects. Now DARPA is having teams test two arms and hands on tasks that require bimanual manipulation, like the robot changing a tire shown in this video. If DARPA is successful with grasping and manipulation, while also making robots more adaptable to changing environments and driving down the cost of production, robotic manipulation systems can be applied to a wide range of potentially dangerous Department of Defense applications, including defusing improvised explosive devices and searching bags.