Robots compete in $1.5 million NASA contest

Five-year-old Brady Chapman watches a robot from Kuukulgur team from Estonia compete in NASA's 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts
Five-year-old Brady Chapman watches a robot from Kuukulgur team from Estonia compete in NASA’s 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts

Eleven robots faced off in a Massachusetts field on Wednesday, showing off their ability to independently track down objects in a hunt for $1.5 million in prize money at a NASA-sponsored contest aimed at speeding technological development.

In the first day of a three-day event, robots designed by teams from the United States, Canada and Estonia set out from a platform in a 2-acre (0.8 hectare) park at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, to search among rolling hills, rocks, trees and a gazebo to find geologic samples.

They operated without human control, with the goal of encouraging advancements in autonomous navigation and robotics technologies, NASA officials said.

“Improving this technology will be a huge boon, not just to NASA and space exploration, but also for countless applications here on Earth,” including industrial purposes, Sam Ortega, program manager of Centennial Challenges, said in a statement.

The Centennial Challenges program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which develops hardware for future missions.

Robots in the contest will be required to retrieve samples in a range of shapes and sizes, from shoe-box-like forms to objects resembling tennis balls. Prizes range from $100,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the complexity of the samples retrieved.

Organizers chose the park setting to provide real-world challenges to the robots.

At last year’s event, also held at Worcester Polytechnic, no prize money was awarded because the one robot that qualified for the contest failed to collect the required samples in the allotted time.

Robots entered in the contest can weigh no more than 80 kilograms (176 pounds) and measure up to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) square.

The program caters mostly to citizen inventors, but also small businesses and universities that have developed robots, Ortega said. Cash prizes can be awarded to U.S. citizens only, he said, but the non-monetary “guts and glory” reward remained a strong motivator for entrants, he added.

While NASA does not claim any right to the intellectual property of the winning robots — it encourages winners to start businesses, for example — the agency would like access to it as part of the competition, he said.

Technological innovations that emerge through the contest could help NASA designers overcome challenges in creating robots used in five to 10 years, Ortega said.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…