But Team Schaft, which earned the highest score during trials in December, will switch into the self-funded Track D. That means the team won’t be tapping into the $1 million in DARPA funds available to finalists, freeing up that money for other teams. Purely for appearances, it makes good sense for a company that pulled in $50 billion in revenue last year to decline financial help from the U.S. government.
The goal of the Department of Defense agency challenge is to push forward the abilities of robots to aid in the aftermath of disasters, such as the Fukushima partial nuclear meltdown in 2011 or the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
“The decision by Team Schaft to self-fund allows DARPA to expand the competition and further develop disaster response robots,” DRC program manager Gill Pratt said in a statement. “This expansion is similar to what happened after DARPA held the Virtual Robotics Challenge in June 2013, when some teams shifted resources and allowed us to increase participation. I look forward to seeing the results of efforts by our new finalists and new team.”
The last is also involved in the DARPA Challenge, providing its Atlas robot to teams that had initially competed virtually — through software alone. Nothing has changed in their arrangement following Google’s acquisition, DARPA told me.
DARPA will announce the date and location of the final round of the competition in the coming months, but it will fall sometime between this December and June 2015.