Because of the risks involved to rescue aid workers and human response teams, DARPA awarded Boston Dynamics, Inc. a $10.9 million contract to manufacture humanoid robots that are bi-pedal, built like humans and have a sensor head with on-board computing capabilities. Completion of the project is expected for August of 2014.
These robots are being created to assist in excavation and rescue missions, according to DARPA. They could also be employed to evacuation operations during either man-made or natural disasters.
Kent Massey, director of advanced programs for HDT Robotics, who attended the DARPA meeting in which the purpose of the allocation of humanoid robotic technology was explained, said:
The goal of this Grand Challenge is to create a humanoid robot that can operate in an environment built for people and use tools made for people. The specific challenge is built around an industrial disaster response.
Another of DARPA’s interests into robotics is the Avatar for the allocation of bi-pedal robots and essential super-soldiers and has devoted $7 million of its $2.8 billion 2012 budget to developing “interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.”
Stanford University’s Aerospace Robotics Laboratory (ARL) wants to introduce autonomous robots into law enforcement situations; such as response in lieu of police SWAT teams.
In high-risk tactical situations, autonomous robots could replace trained personnel without threat of injury or loss of life. Under the direction of a tactical commander, those robots could be released to provide safe and secure assurance of mission completion. Possible voice recognition software could be used to allow the commander to direct the robot, convey commands, and gather information about the environment before deploying human law enforcement.
Autonomous robots, equipped with Taser guns have already been sold to police departments across the nation. iRobot of Massachusetts manufactures PackBot who carries lethal weapons. While these robots were first introduced as assistance in military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have found their way into local police departments.