A Google-owned robotics company is withdrawing an award-winning rescue robot from a military competition to concentrate on getting it ready for sale.
Schaft Inc's bio-inspired HRP-2 robot walks on two legs and uses cutting edge liquid-cooled motors to power its movement and sophisticated hand grippers.
In December's Darpa Robotics Challenge, the HRP-2 wiped the floor with rivals from MIT, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University in a series of tests from turning off a valve and opening doors to removing debris and driving an ATV.
According to IEEE Spectrum, Schaft announced yesterday that it would not be competing in next year's finals of the Challenge, in order to "focus on the development of their first commercial product."
The Robotics Challenge was formulated by Pentagon boffins seeing the chaos at the Fukushima nuclear power station following the Japanese earthquake and tsunmai in 2011. If robots had been able to work in dangerously radioactive areas, some of the build-up of gases and subsequent explosions may have been avoided.
The HRP-2 aced the US military tests thanks to high-torque arms and legs that proved easily capable of shifting debris, climbing ladders and opening doors. New owners Google, which bought Japanese company Schaft just weeks before the contest began, is now moving forward with commercialising the technology. The potential market for a human-shaped robot is enormous, from cheap factory labour to an instant retrofit that makes any car driverless
Google founder Sergey Brin is a self-confessed robotics nerd. He has used telepresence robots to address tech conferences and speak with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and pushed the company to develop its robotic cars.