DARPA funds autonomous robotic manipulation

DARPA’s four-year, multi-track Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program aims to develop software and hardware that enables a robot to autonomously manipulate, grasp, and perform complicated tasks with humans providing only high-level supervision. The ARM robot will be able to adapt to unstructured, dynamic environments.

Over the course of the program in the Software Track, funded performers will develop algorithms that enable the DARPA robot to execute these numerous tasks. In the Hardware Track, funded performers will develop robust, low-cost multi-fingered hands to perform these tasks.

DARPA is also providing public access to an identical robot in the Outreach Track, allowing anyone the opportunity to write software for the ARM robot to complete similar grasping and manipulation challenges.

DARPA is trying to develop robotic arms and hands one-tenth as expensive as today’s systems, which often cost $100,000 or more.

Recently at an SRI laboratory here, two Stanford University graduate students, John Ulmen and Dan Aukes, put the finishing touches on a significant step toward human capabilities: a four-finger hand that will grasp with a human’s precise sense of touch.

Each three-jointed finger is made in a single manufacturing step by a three-dimensional printer and is then covered with “skin” derived from the same material used to make the touch-sensitive displays on smartphones.

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