Sunday, December 29, 2013

Q&A with James Kuffner, Google Robotics Researcher

Technology Review (12/23/13) Will Knight 

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently held a competition in which 16 teams had to develop robots to complete a series of tasks inspired by challenges faced in cleaning up the destroyed Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant. "I think setting up these tasks and challenges is a good way to motivate people to work on hard problems and try to bring together the best hardware and software to make these machines do useful tasks," says Google scientist James Kuffner. He notes that to date, robotics has been very brittle, and it is going to take advanced software and hardware to make robots achieve the same level of performance and agility that humans and animals have. Although the tasks in the DARPA competition may look easy, they are very difficult for robots. "I feel like in the last 20 years there's been incredible acceleration, and I'm really excited to see this much effort and attention being paid to try and make the robots do something practical," Kuffner says.