Although mobile manipulation is a key technology for professional service robots it is certainly not as spectacular as the crossing of the Mojave desert by an autonomous car. Given that the award money was also sligtly lower as for the DARPA Grand Challenge the response which KUKA has received to its announcement of the KUKA Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award was simply overwhelming: almost 30 teams have registered for the challenge with a nearly equal distribution to the three tracks: regular, simulation, and sponsored track. KUKA is currently evaluating the applications for the sponsored track. The finalists of these tracks will receive rental youBots for one year to implement their proposed application. The results will be announced shortly.
As stated in the call for participation, important assessment criteria of the developed solutions will be originality of the idea, its technological readiness, economic impact, and competitive advantage. In addition, participants will have to demonstrate scalability and reusability of their components and algorithms to different kinematics, sensors, and tasks.
The response to KUKA's announcement shows in an impressive manner that robotics academia and industry are both ready to take technology partnership and technology transfer to a new level. We may be curious to see what comes out of this partnership.