By Keerthi Chandrashekar ( | First Posted: Dec 17, 2012 12:10 PM EST

The Pet-Proto. (Photo : DARPA)

We touched upon disaster-relief robots being developed by DARPA before, so here's a closer look at one that's sitting high on the list of possible realities: DARPA's Pet-Proto is a predecessor to the Atlas robot, which is featured in DARPA's Robotics Challenge.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is a contest designed by DARPA to spur progress in the development of autonomous robots that can maneuver through difficult obstacles in order to deliver assistance to victims of disasters.

The DRC will test winning ideas by running through obstacle courses similar to what the robot might face in real life. The Pet-Proto showcases a robot that climbs, jumps, and even manuevers over a pit.

The description for the above video reads:

"In this video, the Pet-Proto, a predecessor to DARPA's Atlas robot, is confronted with obstacles similar to those robots might face in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). To maneuver over and around the obstacles, the robot exercises capabilities including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity. The DARPA Robotics Challenge will test these and other capabilities in a series of tasks that will simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment."

The robots would be able to traverse hostile environments, such as one with high levels of radiation, and should be stronger than the average human aid worker. With autonomous behavior, these robots could carry out tasks on their own, leaving more time for long-term complex decision making by humans in charge.

The Pet-Proto is certainly an exciting (and slightly scary) example of the path robotics is on. Pretty soon, one of these robots could be saving you from underneath a pile of rubble thanks to its radar and life-sensing capabilities.

Read more about the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Check back soon for the next installment of Applied Robotics titled, "Applied Robotics: How Robots Could Change Life - NASA's Robonaut."

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