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Australia Wins Silver In ‘Robot Olympics’

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 3-year-period, the Subterranean Challenge was designed to push the boundaries of autonomous robotic technology.

The competition culminated in a final event held inside the Louisville Mega Cavern in Louisville in Kentucky. The 6 autonomous robots from team CSIRO’s Data61 located and reported back on items and environmental conditions throughout 3 underground courses built inside the Louisville Mega Cavern.

The challenges are designed to simulate real-world scenarios and involve locating models representing lost or injured humans, backpacks, or phones, as well as variable conditions such as pockets of gas. Points are awarded for correct identification and location of items, mapping the terrain, and maintaining autonomy and communications throughout.

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.

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Leader of team CSIRO’s Data61 and CSIRO’s Robotics group leader, Dr Navinda Kottege said it was an amazing result.

“We are the first Australian team to place in the top 2 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.

“I’d like to thank team partners Emesent and Georgia Institute of Technology for their exceptional research and development and contribution to this amazing result.

“The team will now focus on translating the technology and capabilities developed from this project to solve some of Australia’s greatest challenges.”

The $US1 million prize money will be reinvested into team CSIRO’s Data61’s research and development of Australian technology.

“Congratulations to the winners of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge,” said CTO and co-founder of Emesent, a CSIRO spinout, Dr Farid Kendoul said.

“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.”


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