As Robotics Challenge nears, CMU shares final robot design

The next round of the DARPA Robotics Challenge is just a week away, and we’ve started to see a lot more of the robots that will be competing. NASA finally gave a glimpse of its entry earlier this week, and Carnegie Mellon University just released a variety a photos and videos of its robot, known as “CHIMP.”

CHIMP, an acronym inspired by the robot’s ape-like appearance, stands for “CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.” It was designed in Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center by a 50-member team (a core group of about 10 worked full-time on the project) and assembly was just completed a few weeks ago.

The robot stands 5-foot-2-inches tall and weighs about 400 pounds. Its design is unique: instead of walking, it typically drives around on four tank-like treads, switching to two treads to use its arms.

According to information provided by the university, operators guide the robot using lidar-generated 3D imagery and video cameras mounted in the robot’s head. The robot operates autonomously in certain situations — including to protect itself from falling — and human operators tell it where to drive, what to grasp and which way to turn a valve.

“We’ve been on a fast track for the past year, doing detailed design and development of CHIMP at the same time as we were writing and testing its software on surrogate hardware,” NREC director Tony Stentz said in a statement. “That’s an aggressive approach to producing a robot unlike any we have built and not without risk, but it appears to be paying off.”

Stentz says the software allowed the team to investigate a number of issues that influenced the design of the hardware and improved the robot. Also, though he would have loved more time to practice with CHIMP, he says they’ve been “pleased so far with its performance.”

The public will have a chance to judge that performance for itself on Dec. 20.

For more on the CHIMP robot, go to the Tartan Rescue Team project page:

To see more on all the teams competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, go to:

[ image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University ]