Published 29-09-2021
| Article appears in October 2021 Issue

Australia Claims Historic Top Two Spot in the ‘Robot Olympics'

29-09-2021

Robotics experts led by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have beaten teams from NASA JPL/MIT, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University to claim second place in a world leading robotics competition dubbed the ‘Robot Olympics’.

Organised by the US Government research agency DARPA and spanning a three-year-period, the Subterranean Challenge was designed to push the boundaries of autonomous robotic technology.

Scientists were tasked with remotely running the robots in an underground environment that simulated a real-world scenario. This included locating models representing lost or injured humans, backpacks, or phones, as well as variable conditions such as pockets of gas.

Made up of members from CSIRO’s Data61, CSIRO spin-out robotics company Emesent, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, the team competed under the name ‘CSIRO’s Data61’ and won the preliminary round before being awarded second in the final circuit.

Leader of team CSIRO’s Data61 and CSIRO’s Robotics group leader, Dr Navinda Kottege said:

“This is an amazing result! We are the first Australian team to place in the top two at a DARPA robotics challenge. “This cements CSIRO’s place as a world leader in robotics and puts Australia firmly on the map in this increasingly important area of science.” The $US1 million ($AUD1.3) prize money will be reinvested into team CSIRO’s Data61's research and development of Australian technology.

CTO and co-founder of Emesent, a CSIRO spinout, Dr Farid Kendoul said:

“Congratulations to the winners of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. It’s great news for Australia, and I am so proud of team CSIRO's Data61 placing second, and the contributions that Emesent made over the three years to advance the team's state-of-the-art robotics and showcase the capabilities of Australian companies on a global stage.”

Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Ronald Arkin said:

“The Georgia Tech Mobile Robot lab is thrilled to have been team members with CSIRO and Emesent. Our years of hard work together paid great dividends both intellectually and in camaraderie, and it is truly exciting to see the final outcome!” Leader of team CSIRO’s Data61 and CSIRO’s Robotics group leader, Dr Navinda Kottege said: “The team will now focus on translating the technology and capabilities developed from this project to solve some of Australia’s greatest challenges.”

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