Robots learn to use elevators… but will they avoid eye contact?


The TechX Challenge, Singapore's first government-sponsored robotics competition, will run 'bots through some unique trials, such as stair climbing, being able to navigate building interiors, and, the hardest of all, being able to autonomously operate an elevator. The last of the bunch is giving the teams the most trouble, as the reflective nature of elevator panels tend to confuse the robots' sensors. (It's a shame the 'bots are forced to approach the situation in a mechanical, human fashion, as just communicating with the elevator's systems — if there were more advanced systems in place — would be far easier.)

The challenge is modeled after the competitions DARPA runs here in the US, and, along the same lines, encourage adapting existing technology for various military uses. While DARPA's tests tend to lean toward open warfare, the TechX Challenge face urban obstacles. What if a group of bad dudes have hostages on the 17th floor? Or what if a vandal is trying to exit a building by taking the stairs, and then winding through the various coridoors? For the robot builders, a skyscraper proposes a multi-layered labyrinth that can't be conquered simply by telling the robot to follow simple GPS coordinates.

The TechX Challenge concludes on Sunday. There's six teams left, and hopefully we'll get to see some really clever robotic problem solving when it's all done.

Via Popular Mechanics