Research teams around the world are scrambling to prepare for the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. After teams performed better than expected during the trials, DARPA has increased the difficulty of the tests and imposed additional restrictions on robot design.

The DRC finals will begin June 5, 2015, in Pomona, Calif. Teams will be competing for a $2 million prize for constructing robots to complete a variety of tasks related to disaster response. During the trials, robots were required to drive a utility vehicle and exit it under their own power. They traversed rough terrain and cleared a doorway of debris, then operated doorknobs and valves and connected a fire hose. Robots were even required to climb a ladder and cut through a wall.

The DRC finals were originally scheduled for December 2014, but were pushed back to give participants more time to comply with the added difficulties of DARPA's new restrictions. Robots will no longer be allowed to have an external power source connected by a cord. The robot must carry its power supply with it through the tests. Robots in the finals will also not be allowed wire communication tethers or ropes used to prevent a fall.

If  a robot does fall, human operators are not allowed to assist. It must right itself under its own power or not at all. The time to complete tasks will be limited to one hour, whereas some robots took up to four hours to complete the trials. Speed of completion will also be more heavily rated in scoring. To require the robots to be more autonomous, communications between the team and the robot will be intermittent and degraded.

"Six months ago at the DRC Trials, we began physically testing human-supervised robots against disaster-relevant tasks. Their impressive performance gave us the confidence to raise the bar," says program manager Gill Pratt in a statement. "A year from now at the DRC Finals we will push the technology even further."

A total of 11 teams are currently qualified for the finals, with Google's Team Schaft, which placed first in the trials, withdrawing from the competition to pursue commercial applications. Most of the current finalists are from the U.S. with the exeption of Team Kaist from the Republic of Korea. However, qualifiers are not over just yet.

"DARPA expects many more teams to join the DRC Finals competition, including new teams sponsored by the European Union and the governments of Japan and Korea," the defense research agency says in the statement.

The finals will be held at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. The venue contains over 480 acres of space, which will allow DARPA to construct more complex tasks.

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