Meet the Robot Olympics Winner That Could Save Lives

A South Korean robot smashed through a series of disaster relief tasks faster than competitors, winning its team a $2 million prize at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge.

With thousands of spectators cheering the 23 robot competitors on at a competition that seemed like the robot Olympics, South Korea’s DRC-Hubo came away as the victor.

The robot swiftly completed eight disaster relief obstacles, including walking through rubble, climbing stairs and turning valves in under 45 minutes to win the top prize.

Members of the Team KAIST from South Korea celebrate after their robot ‘DRC-Hubo’ won the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex complex in Pomona, Calif., June 6, 2015.

The competition was started by DARPA following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, when it became clear robots were needed to complete tasks in disaster scenarios that would otherwise put the health and safety of humans at risk.

The Team Kaist HUBO robot from South Korea climbs out of a Polairs vehicle during the first day of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex, June 5, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.

“We heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell,” Gill Pratt, a DARPA program manager said in a statement. “And what did people do every time a robot scored a point? They cheered!”

“It’s an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC — the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another,” Pratt said.

A Pensacola, Florida, team took home the $1 million second place prize for a robot named Running Man. CHIMP, a robot designed by Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center won the $500,000 third place prize.

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