2010 Aussie competition will see robots battle it out

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Washington, December 20 (ANI): A team of robotics researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering will build a team of fully autonomous cooperative battle-ready robots as part of a 2010 international war games challenge that could spur real-life battle bots.

The 2010 Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC) tasks teams with building squads of fully autonomous ground robots that will coordinate, plan and execute a series of timed tasks including hunting objects, classifying and responding to simulated threats, and mapping diverse terrains at a field competition in Australia late next year.

The top three winners will get cash prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the chance to work with Australian and United States defense agencies to develop their robotic designs that one day may work alongside - and instead of - soldiers in future wars.

"We'll have multiple small fully autonomous ground vehicles working together," said project team member Dennis Hong, director of RoMeLa and an associate professor with the Virginia Tech mechanical engineering department. "There's never been anything like this," he added.

In all, 10 international teams are part of the MAGIC competition, culled from 23 proposals.

Chiba University in Japan, the University of New South Wales in Australia, and America's Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and Cornell University are among the competitors.

The final competition in Australia is expected to be three hours long, with the three robots handling one set goal each - one will jam "enemy" signals, the other will detect and differentiate "enemy" targets from friendly non-targets using sensors, and the third will have a laser weapon to "paint" targets.

The mission will be based on a treasure hunt, with some target objects being stationary, while others will be mobile, according to Tomonari Furukawa, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with Virginia Tech's Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Virginia. The Virginia tech team, thus far, plans to re-engineer several high-end remote-controlled trucks and tanks for autonomous operation.

"The robots must be able to drive autonomously and communicate with each other. They must think for themselves and cooperate with each other to work," Furukawa said. "That is the biggest challenge," he added. (ANI)

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