DARPA contest aims to build a better disaster-response robot

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DARPA Contest Aims to Build a Better Disaster-Response Robot

Team Kaist from South Korea has won the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Its robot, Hubo, bested 22 other robots with its 44:28 time to take home the $2 million top prize.

Each robotic competitor got a one-hour window to drive a car, open doors, pull levers, turn knobs and saw holes in walls, mostly autonomously and completely untethered.

This parade of robotic dexterity got its start following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

DARPA's competition paired international teams against one another in an effort to put robotic development on the fast track.

The ultimate goal is to create robots that can enter areas too dangerous for humans to do important jobs.

Because for all their ungainly appearances -- and occasional balance issues -- robots do better with hard radiation than humans.

"No. 1 concern is human life. This type of technology, in any operations -- humanitarian assistance, disaster response -- is to save lives," said Brig. Gen. Greg Nelson.

The robots are designed to bear at least some resemblance to humans because they'll be doing tasks people normally would. Engineer Darwin Caldwell explains: "The environment you're going into is a human environment, and a humanoid robot is designed to take on a human environment."

With the payout of finalist prizes, DARPA is done with the contest. But the agency intends to apply the technologies and strategies the teams developed to future robotics projects.

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2015 DARPA robotics contest
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DARPA contest aims to build a better disaster-response robot
POMONA, CA - JUNE 06: Team Kaist's DRC-HUBO robot successfully uses a power hand tool during its successful final run in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 6, 2015 in Pomona, California. Organized by DARPA, the Pentagon's science research group, 24 teams from aorund the world are competing for $3.5 million in prize money that will be awarded to the robots that best respond to natural and man-made disasters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
South Korean winning robot DRC-Hubo Team KAIST #robots #DARPADRC takes $2 million check @DARPA @latimesphotos http://t.co/gKBAR2fL0w
POMONA, CA - JUNE 06: Members of Team Kaist cheer as their DRC-HUBO robot successfully completes its final run in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 6, 2015 in Pomona, California. Organized by DARPA, the Pentagon's science research group, 24 teams from aorund the world are competing for $3.5 million in prize money that will be awarded to the robots that best respond to natural and man-made disasters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
POMONA, CA - JUNE 06: Fans pose for photographs with Team Kaist's DRC-HUBO robot after its successful run during the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 6, 2015 in Pomona, California. Team Kaist from South Korea won first prize in the robotics challenge and took home $2 million. Organized by DARPA, the Pentagon's science research group, 24 teams from aorund the world are competing for $3.5 million in prize money that will be awarded to the robots that best respond to natural and man-made disasters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
POMONA, CA - JUNE 05: South Korean supporters of the Team Kaist HUBO robot react to an error during the first day of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 5, 2015 in Pomona, California. Organized by DARPA, the Pentagon's science research group, 24 teams from aorund the world are competing for $3.5 million in prize money that will be awarded to the robots that best respond to tasks often handled by emergency workers in natural and man-made disasters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
POMONA, CA - JUNE 05: The Team Kaist HUBO from South Korea folds its 'legs' and becomes a rolling robot after climbing out of a Polairs vehicle during the first day of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 5, 2015 in Pomona, California. Organized by DARPA, the Pentagon's science research group, 24 teams from aorund the world are competing for $3.5 million in prize money that will be awarded to the robots that best respond to tasks often handled by emergency workers in natural and man-made disasters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Members of the Team KAIST from South Korea celebrate after their robot 'DRC-Hubo' won the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex complex in Pomona, California on June 6, 2015. Robots from six countries including the United States, Japan and South Korea competed against each other in a disaster response challenge inspired by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown. AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Virginia Tech College of Engineering watch their robot, Escher, tumble over during the first stage in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Robot Warner from Worchester Polytechnic Institute climbs stairs in the final stage in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Member from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition watches their robot, Running Man, check on the time left for the competition in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
University of Tokyo robot Aero DRC tumbles over during the first stage of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Robot Florian is hauled back to the lab after Team ViGIR from TORC Robitics , Technische University Darmstadt, Virginia Tech, Oregon State University, Cornell University and Leibniz University of Hannover, could not get through the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Members from Seoul National University carry robot Thormang back to the start of the second stage after stalling in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
RoboSimian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, takes a step during the terrain task at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Friday, Dec 20, 2013, in Homestead, Fla. Seventeen teams from the United States, China, Japan, and Korea are participating in the DARPA Rpbotics Challenge Trials. The event is a test of some of the most advanced robots in the world. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Thor, Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, tries to connect the hose to a firehose connection during the hose task at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Friday, Dec 20, 2013, in Homestead, Fla. Seventeen teams from the United States, China, Japan, and Korea are participating in the DARPA Rpbotics Challenge Trials. The event is a test of some of the most advanced robots in the world. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Robot Running Man from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition proceeds to turn a valve in the next stage of the competition during the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Members from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition watch their robot, Running go through proceeds the stages of the competition during the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
University of Hong Kong robot Atlas falls during the first stage of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics challenge in Pomona, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2015. Robots from 24 teams are taking part in a two-day contest hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, to prove their performance in different tasks during a simulated disaster course. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
The nuclear plant at Japan's Fukushima may be leaking radiation, but people are still going there daily to look for employment where about 2,200 of the 2,500 working there are subcontractors. In the last three months, at least eight workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation and removed from duty but this has not deterred others. It's a vocation with little job security, few benefits and no insurance for injuries or radiation poisoning but many are still lining up. Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports
DARPA is an agency that takes high risks in pursuit of great rewards. This video is a celebration of risk. Thank you to all of the teams that participated in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. Keep on taking risks. #DARPADRC
Apelike Robot Dominates First Day of DARPA Robotics Competition http://t.co/4DNqPhNAmF by @tanyalewis314 #DARPADRC http://t.co/s1LjTJSW68
Chimp says farewell! #DARPADRC http://t.co/leQ6DBAHlx
With DRC-HUBO, the robot that won the #DARPADRC Good job robots and humans from Team KAIST! http://t.co/ybKP9McwGa
Team MIT climbs the mountain (without taking another tumble) ! #DARPADRC http://t.co/TSWBKaP2it
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