July 3, 2012 at 3:13 PM ET
The U.S. military’s futuristic research arm has launched a program to get more productivity out of its robots in a bid to make them more compatible companions on the battlefield.
DARPA’s robots include one that can haul hundreds of pounds of gear across rugged terrain and another that can quickly disarm roadside bombs – good chores for robots instead of humans. The problem is the machines are lazy, working for about 10 minutes before they demand a re-charge break.
The agency’s M3 Actuation program aims to achieve a 2,000 percent increase in the efficiency of power transmission and application in robots.
To get there, the agency suggests researchers look to human and animal models, whose bones, muscles and tendons have evolved to work together and use as little energy as possible.
“If robotic actuation can be made to approach the efficiency of human and animal actuation, the range of practical robotic applications will greatly increase and robot design will be less limited by power plant considerations,” DARPA said in a statement announcing the program.
According to the statement, the agency is seeking proposals for two tracks:
Design approaches will be shared at the DRC live competition scheduled for December 2013 and final systems will be demonstrated at DRC live in December 2014. More details are available from DARPA.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.