DARPA putting more time, money into humanoid robot

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The Pentagon is giving more time and money to companies that have shown promise in fielding a humanoid robot.

Eleven of 16 firms that put their robot prototypes through their paces in June at have now been given an additional six months and $1.5 million each by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to continue their work, the Pentagon said on July 15.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, or DRC, was originally scheduled to end with a winning robot in December, but has now been pushed back to June.

The 11 teams receiving DARPA funds will also be competing against privately funded teams, both domestic and international.

The Pentagon characterizes the humanoid robot it is looking to develop as an asset that could be deployed worldwide to assist first responders in rescue operations.

If there is also a weaponized version a la The Terminator anywhere in the plan the Pentagon has not said so.

The winning team of the DARPA Robotics Challenge will be awarded $2 million.

The extended time and increased budget was not because of missed timetables or disappointment with technologies, but actually because the trials held in Florida last December were so successful, according to a report in the National Defense, the news magazine of the National Defense Industry Association.

Gill Pratt, DRC program manager, told the magazine this month that “things went better than we expected at the DRC trials,” resulting in DARPA deciding to “raise the bar even more than what we had planned from the beginning.”

And since that means a greater challenge, additional time and money was appropriated to the DARPA teams, he said.

DARPA is expected to spend about $95 million on the program through 2015. The DRC began in 2012.