Australia claims second place in the “Robot Olympics”

“Robot Olympics”

Two of team CSIRO's Data61's all terrain and quadruped robots. Image: CSIRO.

Robotics experts led by CSIRO have beaten teams from NASA JPL/MIT, California Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University in the Subterranean Challenge, or “Robot Olympics”, claiming second place. 

Organised by the US government research agency, DARPA, the Subterranean Challenge was designed to push the boundaries of autonomous robotic technology, spanning a three-year-period. 

Scientists were tasked with remotely running the robots in an underground environment that simulated a real-world scenario. This included locating models representing lost or injured humans, backpacks or phones, as well as variable conditions such as pockets of gas.  

Points were awarded for correct identification and location of items, mapping the terrain and maintaining autonomy and communications throughout.  

The competition culminated in a final event held inside the Louisville Mega Cavern in Louisville in Kentucky, with results announced in the US overnight.  

Made up of members from CSIRO’s Data61, CSIRO spin-out robotics company Emesent and the Georgia Institute of Technology, the team competed under the name “CSIRO’s Data61” and won the preliminary round before being awarded second in the final circuit.   

“This is an amazing result! We are the first Australian team to place in the top two at a DARPA robotics challenge,” CSIRO Data61 team leader and CSIRO Robotics group leader Dr Navinda Kottege said. 

"Robot Olympics"
One of team CSIRO’s Data61’s quadruped robots in the foreground, with one of the tracked all terrain robots carrying an aerial robot in the background. Image: CSIRO.

“This cements CSIRO’s place as a world leader in robotics and puts Australia firmly on the map in this increasingly important area of science.  

“I’d like to thank team partners Emesent and Georgia Institute of Technology for their exceptional research and development and contribution to this amazing result.”  

The $1.3 million prize money will be reinvested into team CSIRO’s Data61’s research and development of Australian technology.   

“Congratulations to the winners of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge,” Emesent CTO and co-founder Dr Farid Kendoul said. 

“It’s great news for Australia and I am so proud of team CSIRO’s Data61 placing second, and the contributions that Emesent made over the three years, to advance the team’s state-of-the-art robotics and showcase the capabilities of Australian companies on a global stage.”  

The CSIRO team now aims to focus on translating the technology and capabilities developed from the “Robot Olympics”, to solve some of Australia’s greatest challenges.