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International Robotics Challenge Announced


With much wisdom and foresight Edward Teller, in his 1975 “Energy: A Plan for Action” envisions a world where highly “skilled scientist-technicians” are surrounded by an army of “craftsmen” who monitor, develop, and control the automated production processes with computer networks, indicating:

No matter what popular opinion asks us to believe, technology will be crucial for human survival. Contrary to much of our current thinking, technology and its development is not antithetical to human values. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. Tool making and the social organization it implies are very deeply ingrained in our natures. This is, in fact, the primary attribute that distinguishes man from other animals.

We must continue to adapt our technology, which is, in essence, our ability to shape nature more effectively in order to face the problems that this human race faces today. It is for this reason that the development and expansion of technical education is so important. It is only through the possession of high skills and the development of educational systems for the acquisition of these skills that human prosperity can be insured.

In what seems recognition of the fundamentals of Teller’s statement, Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced a new robotics challenge as part of the UAE’s year of innovation.

The international robotics challenge under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, will be held every two years and offers prizes worth a total of USD 5 million, with the first challenge being held in November, 2016.

Each group of finalists will receive US$500,000, with the winning team receiving US$2 million dollars.

In the outline of the challenge the organizers understand that ‘Robotics technology is poised to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications across a diverse range of fields.’

The aim of the international robotics challenge according to Dr. Mohammed Al Mualla, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Khalifa University is:

to shape the future of worldwide robotic technology and its uses by offering a challenge that requires conducting research, inventing new solutions and applying them to a real life scenario.

The first challenge in November next year will focus on land and aerial robots that can assess situations and work together in emergencies, which the website of the challenge describes as taking:

place at an arena that simulates the scene of an accident and involves a large moving vehicle being on fire. The competing teams will design a set of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)’s and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV)’s, which will work autonomously without any human intervention to handle this incident. The challenge involves performing a set of complex tasks, such as landing UAV’s on the moving vehicle’s rooftop and the activating the emergency brakes system that the vehicle is equipped with. It then coordinates with the UGV’s to move towards the burning vehicle and activate the fire extinguishing system by avoiding a lot of obstacles that will be deployed in the field. Air and ground robots will then cooperate to locate the victims and conduct operations to transport them out of the scene.

The challenge is also aiming to boost the robotics ecosystem in the UAE and help local industry as well as play a major part in attracting robotics talent and students to UAE universities. Dr Arif Al Hammadi, executive vice president at the Khalifa university said: “We want to for every university in the UAE to eventually have a robotics lab for its students.”

A call for proposals will begin in May, with submissions due in September 2015. Finalists will be chosen in November this year and the challenge will take place in the UAE in November next year.

The organizers indicate that the overall objective of this challenge is to advance the state of the robotics industry and to build better-designed robots. Because the challenge is performance based, teams from around the world will demonstrate their abilities to produce advanced robots in a highly competitive team based environment.

Additional information about the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) is available on the challenge website.

Photo credit the MBZIRC website.

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