Google turns down military money for robot competition

The bipedal Schaft robot, the top scorer in a DARPA competition last year for disaster-response scenarios, will compete in the finals, but now with funding just from Google.

Schaft, a Japanese company focusing on a humanoid robot, is one of several small robotics firms that Google has acquired.
Schaft, a Japanese company focusing on a humanoid robot, is one of several small robotics firms that Google has acquired. Schaft

Google will pay its own way through a robotics competition, deciding against accepting money from the US military for a humanoid robot that topped the charts in a contest for disaster-relief scenarios.

Last year, Google acquired the Japanese robotics firm Schaft that built the bipedal robot that earned the highest score at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) for a machine that can handle disaster zone tasks including climbing ladders, navigating debris, opening a door, and shutting off a valve.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a Department of Defense unit that seeks to advance technology, had funded the work before Google's acquisition, but Google told DARPA it's moved the project to the self-funded category.

"Team Schaft...has elected to switch to the self-funded Track D of the program," DARPA said in a statement Friday.

Schaft and another robotics company that Google acquired, Boston Dynamics, both had accepted DARPA funds. Stepping away from the military funding avoids some politically touchy entanglements for a company that's far more interested in bringing automation to consumers' lives than to the battlefield.

DARPA is funding eight teams to move from last year's trials competition to the finals. That stage had been scheduled 2014, but DARPA is now setting the competition for some time between December 2014 and June 2015.

Boston Dynamics had been working on a bipedal humanoid robot project called Petman, a sequel to earlier projects inspired by quadrupedal animals.

Via The Verge

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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