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DARPA is ready to issue a grand challenge to the robotics community. They require a humanoid robot that can get into a tractor, drive it, get out, unlock a door, navigate through a messy hallway, climb a ladder, seal a leaking pipe and fix a broken pump. The robot can be remote controlled right now, but DARPA want to eventually introduce independent operation. They will pick out 6 hardware teams and 12 software teams to fund out of all the participants, but funding can be redirected if an unpaid team delivers better results.

Crowdsourcing is something that DARPA has done before with some impressive results. One of the more notable of the agency's past crowdsourcing projects is the Cheetah, which has recently set the speed record among robots. DARPA funding is something that's sure to get a lot of robotics developers motivated, so the results should be pretty exciting. 

Boston Dynamics appears to have a head start with PETMAN, a bipedal robot they previously developed for field testing HAZMAT suits, which borrows some technology from BigDog, the robot that previously put the company on the map. 

One way or another, DARPA's challenge is a huge step towards the US catching up with Japan in the field of robotics.

By Denis Ivanov.

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