Later this year, DARPA will be hosting what promises to be a watershed event in the world of robotics: the Robotics Challenge. Huge, expensive robots will have to navigate obstacle courses and complete complex tasks that simulate how robots might be able to help out after a major disaster. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) recently announced that they will be entering the fray with their monkey-based robot, RoboSimian. With four general purpose limbs and no real front, RoboSimian is designed for both economy of motion and enhanced perceptual awareness.
RoboSapien is still under construction, but is slated for completion before the Robotics Challenge begins in December. One crucial part of RoboSimian's design yet be implemented is its four hands. For these, JPL has joined forces with Stanford University. All we know about the hands thus far is that they will be able to complete precise actions — like turning valves on and off — as well as function as anchors when needed.
Trials for the DARPA Robotics Challenge are set to begin in Miami just before the holidays. Which robot ultimately comes out on top remains to be seen, but JPL and Stanford are placing their hopes in their little robot ape to take home the prize. For more information about the Robotics Challenge, you can check out DARPA's contest site here.