DARPA unleashes open source, cloud based software for robot developers world wide.
DARPA has opened up the next phase of their robotics challenge to "anyone with the skills to develop the software needed to advance core robotic software capabilities" via an online registration system and robotics simulation software. Dubbed the "Virtual Robotics Challenge," the contest is one of four in DARPA's effort to develop robots that can assist humans in disasters and emergency response scenarios. The concept behind the open source program, called the DRC Simulator, is to allow individuals with the know-how, but not the hardware, to compete and diversify the field of robotics development. The beta version of the simulator is already available after a month in development, but potential competitors must work fast because the Virtual Robotics Challenge is scheduled for June 2013.
Skills listed for a potential developer include "expertise in software for robotic perception, planning, control and human-robot interface, and expertise in physics-based games, models, and simulations, as well as open source code." Gill Pratt, the program manager for DRC, said that "The DRC Simulator is going to be one of DARPA's legacies to the robotics community." Ideally, the cloud-based nature of the simulator will allow greater innovation in robotics by doing away with expensive physical hardware and prototyping - barriers that keep otherwise capable developers out of robotics.
Those who qualify in June and move beyond the Virtual Robotics Challenge will receive DARPA funding and a modified robot developed for DARPA similar to the one in the video above. DARPA is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for research; it was involved in the development of many technologies in the latter half of the 20th century such as the early internet and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Crowdsourcing robotics software may seem like a brilliant idea, but you have to wonder what the outcome of this will be given that DARPA's own efforts so far have uncovered such terrors as super fast robots.