From PC Magazine:
The DARPA Robotics Challenge kicks into high gear today as the organization announces the top teams that will be competing to create robots that can prevent the compounding of human peril in manmade and natural disasters.
Spurred by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in which the "Fukushima 50" ventured into a nightmare scenario to prevent a nuclear meltdown, DARPA is seeking robotic substitutes so that one individual's life is not weighed against dozens or more of others'.
Dr. Gill Pratt, the program manager for the challenge, noted that the program's focus on humanitarian assistance in disaster response is aligned with one of the 10 primary missions of the U.S. Department of Defense that was laid out by the White House and the Secretary of Defense in January 2012. But Pratt called attention to another reason why DARPA chose the subject of this challenge: "[W]e believe that this is very inspirational for participants because it's a universally understood and appreciated mission."
The participating teams are divided into two tracks: Track A teams will create the robots themselves as well as the software while Track B teams will be provided with the Boston Dynamics-designed Atlas robot, the descendant of Pet-Proto, and create software for it. Both teams will receive DARPA funding for their projects and they have until approximately December 2013 to complete them.
DARPA has chosen seven Track A teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Raytheon, SCHAFT, Virginia Tech, the NASA Johnson Space Center, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The 11 Track B teams are from Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Laboratories, RE2, the University of Kansas, Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, TRAC Labs, University of Washington, the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Ben-Gurion University, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and TORC Robotics....MORE