DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) developed the DARPA Robotics Challenge to discover new ideas and concepts for ground-based semi-autonomous robots tasked with saving lives while operating in extremely dangerous and complex disaster zones, whether natural or man-made. Importantly, the robots competing in the challenge could only use tools and equipment commonly found in human environments, such as standard hand tools and vehicles.
Twenty six teams from eight countries participated in the three-phase challenge, which consisted of the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC), DRC Trials, and then the DRC Finals. The VRC kicked off with teams developing software platforms to control a virtual robot competing a range of complex tasks. Teams were evaluated on overall robot perception, manipulation, and locomotion. Team ViGIR and six other top-performing teams earned additional funding when they were selected to compete in the DRC Trials with their software integrated into one of seven identical Atlas robots. Additional DARPA-funded teams and five self-funded teams were also approved to compete in the DRC Trials, for a total of eighteen teams.