Humanoid tackles disasters humans can’t

USA (Las Vegas)

A South Korean robotic team has taken home $2 million prize money in an international competition to design semi-autonomous robots that can enter disaster areas. Sponsored by the Defense Department, DARPA Robotics Challenge was inspired by the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Twenty-five teams built humanoids that could assist in areas too dangerous for people. Controlled wirelessly by a remote operator, robots had 60 minutes to perform eight activities that included driving a car, opening a valve, climbing stairs, and walking through rubble.

Walking on two feet proved no mean feat for all entries. With a transformer-like ability to switch from a bipedal walking to a machine on its ‘knees’, the winning DRC-Hubo@UNLV was designed by internationally recognised expert in humanoid robots, Professor Oh. First built in 2004 as one of the first advanced full-body humanoid robots developed outside Japan, his ‘son’ stands at 160 cm tall and weighs about 80kg. Its fingers and arms mimic human movement, it has three cameras the operator uses to ‘see’, and can lift up to 20kg. Oh plans to keep improving the HUBO platform, to prevent explosive catastrophes like Fukushima occurring again.

Written by

Claire Proudfoot (05 August 2015)


Claire is an international producer/ director based in London. South African born she spends most of her time making content in sub-Saharan Africa about things such as tech, healthcare, and gender.

Project leader

Professor Oh , Korean Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST)

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