Team Grit’s Cog-Burn is one of the weirdest of the entries in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Reminiscent of (but literally nothing like) the eminently cool Super Ball ‘bot being developed by NASA’s Ames Center for work in space, Cog-Burn isn’t humanoid, animalistic, or even a tensegrity structure. What the hell is Cog-Burn?! Awesome. It is is awesome.
One of the things that jumps right out at you in comparison to the other entries: Cog-Burn is FAST. No lumbering gait here. This little ‘bot has swagger. Which is actually the root of its familiar name. Buddy, Cog-Burn’s predecessor had legs, and he knew how to use them. Buddy walked with such a swagger that the team couldn’t help but think of True Grit as it stalked around the lab, and so Cog-Burn is named after Rooster Cogburn1 Here’s Buddy in the lead up to the 2013 Challenge:
The DARPA Robotics Challenge is a multi-stage contest created to incentivize improvements to robots that respond to natural and man made disasters – rescue robots. It is pretty crazy to think about how incredibly sophisticated robotics in the laboratory and manufacturing fields have become, while robots used in rescue remain almost unchanged since the late 1990s. Robots that respond to disaster areas have a unique set of challenges: unknown and uneven terrain, route that may be compromised, shaky communication services – in short, these robots must be able to deal with the unplanned and unexpected.
One of these tasks is to drive a car into the ostensible disaster zone. And Team Grit know that is an acheivable goal. In an earlier DARPA sponsored competition for self driving cars, the group (under the name Team Mojavaton) came in third. See! No hands:
Team Grit is one of the few totally private entries. It’s less what we think of as a “lab” and more a self-funded ragtag collection of robot enthusiasts encompassing everyone from undergraduate and graduate students to professors, to those in private industry. The underdogs of the competition, what Cog-Burn lacks in pedigree it makes up in enthusiasm with team members working nights and weekends to finalize the bot’s programming.
In contrast to the million dollar robots of NASA or Boston Dynamics, much of Cog-Burn’s structure has been created with a 3D printer, using the same kind of plastic used to make LEGO2
As a result, Cog-Burn is also a lot more svelte than the competition. Weighing in at only 33 pounds, Cog-Burn is about 14% of our current favorite, NASA’s 238-pound RoboSimian. Not to mention, Cog-Burn has a pricetag that is correspondingly svelte: the current outlay on hardware is around $20,000.3
One of the lightweight ‘bot’s most high tech features is its borrowed LIDAR “eye”. The “eye” targets an object with its laser and analyzes the reflected light as a way of calculating distance.
Oh, we are so torn! It’s impossible to decide who to root for! Check out the rest of our DARPA Robotics Challenge profiles and decide for yourself!