Japan’s Schaft has all the right stuff at DARPA robot trials

Schaft’s humanoid robot prowls through long grass. What are Google’s plans for it?

(Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)

It may look like a clunky Asimo prototype from 20 years ago, but a humanoid rescue robot built by Japanese university graduates overwhelmed the competition at a prestigious Pentagon-sponsored robotics event over the weekend.

Tokyo-based Schaft won the day, scoring 27 out of 32 possible points in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), a series of trials for robots designed to aid in disaster relief efforts, such as nuclear plant accidents.

The victory is ironic for Japan. Despite the country’s robotics prowess, it had no robots on hand to help with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown in 2011, the kind of emergency the DRC is trying to tackle.

IHMC Robotics, based in Florida, grabbed second place in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which was held at Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida. Carnegie Mellon University’s Team Tartan Rescue placed third.

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