The fine folks at NOVA sent
robots.net a preview copy of their upcoming
episode on the DARPA Grand Challenge titled, The Great Robot Race. The
documentary will air on Tuesday, March 28th at 8pm ET on local PBS
stations. We watched it and enjoyed it. Read on for a few highlights of
the show and be sure to check out the additional NOVA
video clips that didn't make it into the final cut.
When I popped NOVA's The Great Robot Race DVD into the player, I
was expecting to
see the usual recycled footage of the most recent Grand Challenge. I've
seen a dozen or more collections of Grand Challenge video at this point
and most of them look about the same. Two suprises awaited me. First,
the NOVA camera crew was somehow able to get access that no one
else could. They have better footage than I've seen from many of the
teams and even from DARPA itself. They were the only group allowed to
shoot aerial footage during the race. So, it's definitely worth watching
for the exclusive video alone.
The second suprise is that the documentary starts at the begining and
includes the story of both the first and second DARPA Grand Challenge.
They start at the begining
explaining why the DARPA Grand Challenge took place, why the Pentagon
wants autonomous miltary vehicles, and how such vehicles could save
lives. All this is told in the usual thorough and interesting style that
has made NOVA a favorite of geeks everywhere. It also makes the show
particularly worth watching if you aren't familiar with the whole story
and want to get up to speed on what the race was all about.
In addition to the new and unexpected elements in the documentary,
you'll see what you're expecting as well. The numerous crashes and
failures that characterized the first Grand Challenge are all there.
You'll see robots
driving into barriers, into ditches, flipping over, losing their
balance, or just
standing motionless in confusion. They've captured the planning and
testing that went into the robots for the second Challenge. You'll get
to see the reactions of the teams as the winning robots cross the finish
line. And, of
course, they talk about what kind of applications the technology could
have for consumers in the future, such as driverless cars and smart
Put it on your calendar. Definitely worth checking out!