BGU is the only foreign university to develop software for US robot.

Ben-Gurion University has been given an American grant to develop control software for a disaster-response military operations robot.



The US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military. The agency at the Department of Defense, which has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies that have had a major effect on the world, also finances a “Robotics Challenge.” Now Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba has become the only foreign university chosen to lead a team on a track to develop control software for the DARPA robot.

Robot - Photo: CourteseyBGU has been given a $375,000, nine-month grant to develop control software for a disaster-response operations robot in the Israeli part of the project, called Robil.

This technology is expected to improve the performance of robots that operate in the rough terrain and austere conditions characteristic of disasters and use vehicles and tools commonly available in populated areas. The technology will also work in ways easily understood by subject matter experts untrained in the operation of robots, and will be governed by intuitive controls that require little training.

“Natural and man-made disasters have caused suffering for people around the world, in past ages, today, and surely tomorrow. The devastation of disasters such as Fukushima, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Chilean Copiapó mine collapse all serve to highlight our fragility in the presence of unforeseen events,” according to the challenge’s website.

“Often, subject matter experts are available with the knowledge to prevent further damage, yet are unable to get close enough to complete their mission – be it from nuclear contamination, intense pressure, structural instability, or many other threats to human safety. Our best robotic tools are helping, but they are not yet robust enough to function in all environments and perform the basic tasks needed to mitigate a crisis situation. Even in degraded post-disaster situations, the environment is scaled to the human world, requiring navigation of human obstacles such as doors and stairs, manipulation of human objects such as vehicles and power tools, and recognition of common human objects such as levers and valves.”

The software will control the robot developed by Boston Dynamics, Inc., based on its Atlas humanoid robot platform and modified to meet the needs of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. “Robil’s team is an ad-hoc consortium led by BGU comprised of the leaders of the Israeli robotics industry and academia. It includes 20 key personnel and over 40 graduate students and engineers,” says Robil team leader Prof. Hugo Guterman of BGU’s electrical and computer engineering department.


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