Where to start? 2013 was a crazy year for us. I wish we'd decided to start writing here sooner so we could share more of it with you. Fitting enough that the event in Homestead happened in December, to cap off the year. The thrill of our finish in the virtual challenge, the sights and sounds of the first time we powered up Atlas, and the long, long road we walked to get to Homestead was full of tons of ups and downs. And then there was the DRC Trials themselves. It was intense.
We're excited to even have had the opportunity to take part in the DARPA Robotics Challenge; and even more so, we're excited to have the opportunity to share our research and what we're capable of with the world. Finishing in 2nd place at Homestead was a pretty awesome moment for us, and we're in good company with lots of other super talented folks like Google/SCHAFT, CMU's Tartan Rescue, NASA JPL's RoboSimian, plus the four(!!) other Atlas robots that pushed through to the finals from MIT, TRACLabs, WPI, and Lockheed.
It's February now, and most of us have been out of the lab since the Trials ended. We were pulling some insane hours leading up to the Trials, and both ourselves and our Atlas needed a vacation. We're kicking off our run up to the finals this week, and starting to get back in to the swing of things. We look forward to putting on another great show at the Finals, and we'll be doing our best to share more with you here on our blog (look for posts from tons of different folks in the lab, sharing research and insight in to the world of humanoid robots) as well as over on Twitter this year as we move towards the $2 million prize.
One last thing before I sign off and get back to work; I wanna take some time out to thank some of the people involved with the DRC and with our team that made all of this possible. A short word from our sponsors, if you will.
We'd like to thank Atlassian for not just making killer tools to help us manage the complexity of our project and our rotating cast of a team, but donating the time of their engineer Tim Pettersen to help us not just learn all the ins and outs of their software but also contributing a ton to our simulation software and the team's success as a whole. The evolution of our relationship from sponsor to partner and the collaboration between our organizations has been a real eye-opening experience that has helped drive us towards excellence. We look forward to continuing to work with Atlassian and having them involved with our DRC team over the course of the next stretch.
Wiley Horton and Pennington PA were kind enough to donate to the DRC Team so that we could post up with a beautiful, cozy RV on-site at Homestead, functioning as our team's Hospitality Suite. The DRC was just as much stress as it was fun and challenging; having simple creature comforts like AC and a place to rest during byes helped keep us fresh, alert, and happy in the face of some truly tremendous competition, and it wouldn't have been possible without contributions from Wiley and Pennington PA. The crazy South Florida sunshine and 80+ degree heat were almost as much of an adversary as the other teams, so having the RV around was huge.
Ryan McKenzie and The Clough Foundation
We want to thank The Clough Foundation for their continuing support of open access and transparency in the robotics community over the years by helping us in our endeavor to document our efforts and produce high quality video footage for the public. We're firm believers in collaboration and dissemination in the sciences, and our media team's obsessive recording of every single moment that the robot was powered on (literally!) has enabled us not only in this end but in analyzing every fall, trip, and slip that Atlas made over the past few months to push our development to the level it needed to be at. It has also enabled us to process and produce the videos that populate and will continue to populate our YouTube Accounts (here and here).
We want to thank the folks at Boston Dynamics for their role in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The Atlas platform is a remarkable feat in hardware engineering, providing an unparalleled level of reliability in a humanoid platform that is robust to damage and ready to be run hard right out of the box. Their software and hardware support teams have been fantastically responsive to every little scare and bug report that has cropped up, and we were always met with friendliness and engineering excellence. We want to wish the entire Atlas support team all of the best at their new home with Google, and we look forward to seeing what they crank out for the final leg next year.
The Open Source Robotics Foundation
None of the DRC would have been possible for the Track B teams if The Open Source Robotics Foundation hadn't been brought in to support the development of their fantastic and free software stacks that enable an entirely new breed of simulation and robotics development. ROS and Gazebo have the potential to completely revolutionize the way that robotics research is conducted, especially for small teams with limited access to resources that need to get bootstrapped quickly. The role of the OSRF in lowering the barrier to entry for to robotics research is going to be huge and we look forward to seeing what they continue to do.
Last but not least, we would like to thank DARPA and the team that have been working tirelessly on the Virtual Challenge, DRC Trials, and upcoming Finals. The event itself in Homestead far exceeded anything that we could have expected; it was well organized and once the headaches were ironed out during the dress rehearsals the whole thing went off without a hitch. They publicized and drew a healthy crowd and plenty of media; the DARPA folks were able to bring both fun and a major amount of mainstream credibility to a field that can frequently be shrouded in obscurity, all while maintaining an exceptional level of organization and professionalism. The DRC is enabling huge leaps forward in the field of humanoids, and we want to thank DARPA for not only putting on such an awesome event but allowing us to be a part of it.
So with that said, here's an awesome 2014 and a great show at the Finals!