TRACLabs scientists are programming our Hercules robot to perform seven of the DARPA Robot Challenge (DRC) competition tasks, which are focused on disaster relief activities. The tasks are:


  1. Walk across a debris field
  2. Open a series of doors and walk through them
  3. Close a series of valves
  4. Attach a hose to a spigot
  5. Cut a hole in a wall
  6. Climb a ladder
  7. Remove debris from in front of a door

The DRC takes place December 19 and 20, 2013 in Miami FL.



Mock-ups of the tasks for the DRC

Mock-ups of the tasks for the DRC


TRACLabs scientists worked with NASA mission controllers to use our PRIDE electronic procedure software during the last two International Space Station (ISS) Extravehicular Activities (EVA), also called spacewalks. The detailed procedure for each spacewalk was authored in our electronic format and mission controllers checked off the activities as the occurred. TRACLabs was present in NASA Mission Control Center (MCC) to assist in this activity. The software proved valuable in keeping all mission controllers synchronized with respect to the progress of the spacewalk.

NASA mission controllers consulting TRACLabs electronic procedure software

NASA mission controllers consulting TRACLabs electronic procedure software


DARPA sponsored a Virtual Robot Challenge held June 18-20. Over 20 teams competed to complete three tasks: 1) maneuver a robot through a course with mud, hills, and obstacles; 2) enter a vehicle and drive it; and 3) pick up a hose and mate it to a connector. Each team performed each task five times using a simulated robot provided by DARPA. Teams were scored based on completing tasks and subtasks, time to complete tasks, and number of bits uploaded to the robot from the operator control stations. TRACLabs was one of eleven teams to received a DARPA grant to participate in this challenge. TRACLabs was assisted by researchers from SUNY-Buffalo. Final results will be announced by DARPA on June 25. Winning teams will continue their research using a DARPA-supplied robot. For more information see: http://www.theroboticschallenge.org/

TRACLabs team members watch as operators control a DARPA simulated robot.


TRACLabs developed critical software that supported the “Surface Telerobotics” experiment on-board the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday June 17, 2013. Surface Telerobotics demonstrates a future exploration “concept of operations” in which an astronaut in an orbiting spacecraft remotely operates a robot on a planetary surface. The primary objective of Surface Telerobotics is to collect baseline engineering data (from crew, robot, and data communications) to characterize system operation.

During the first test session, Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy on the ISS remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in the NASA Ames Roverscape outdoor testbed in California. Cassidy used the robot to perform surface site survey and to begin deploying a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna. Subsequent test sessions, to be conducted in July and August, will focus on completing antenna deployment, inspecting the deployment, and studying human-robot interaction.

Please look at the following video to get more information about the experiment:

Exoskeleton for rehabilitation
Posted by at May 30th, 2013 @ 10:33 pm · Robotics

Rice researchers visit TRACLabs

TRACLabs is collaborating with researchers at Rice University’s Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces (MAHI) Laboratory headed by Professor Marcia O’Malley and with researchers at TIRR foundation to build a robotic upper-limb exoskeleton that can assist in physical therapy. Rice researchers recently visited TRACLabs to inspect a preliminary version of the exoskeleton. In the picture below, the exoskeleton is in the foreground. TRACLabs is developing the mechanical and electrical components of the exoskeleton building on preliminary designed by Rice University. TRACLabs is also building software to control the exoskeleton and interface to both the patient and the therapist. This software is following early designs by Rice University scientists.

DARPA Robot Challenge
Posted by at October 25th, 2012 @ 10:25 pm · Robotics

The virtual robot to be used in the DARPA Virtual Robot Challenge

Four TRACLabs scientists just returned from Washington DC where they attended the kick-off of the DARPA Robot Challenge (DRC). The DRC involves either building a robot that can perform disaster relief functions (Track A) or writing software that allows a DARPA-provided robot to perform the same disaster relief functions (Track B). TRACLabs was given a Track B award by DARPA, one of only eleven institutions world-wide to receive an award, potentially worth over $2 million dollars. TRACLabs is partnered with SUNY-Buffalo for this work. TRACLabs will need to compete with other Track B awardees in a Virtual Robot Challenge (VRC) conducted in simulation. The VRC involves a simulated robot driving a cart, walking through a rubble field, and connecting a hose or cable to a socket. The VRC will take place in June 2013. The popular press is already covering the DRC, including:

NY Times
IEEE Spectrum
PC Magazine

TRACLabs summer interns
Posted by at September 27th, 2012 @ 9:23 pm · Automation, Robotics

TRACLabs was pleased to have four interns this past summer at our Houston location and one intern located in Buffalo NY. Shown below from left to right are: Brian Lemke from Texas A&M, Jeff Johnson from Indiana University, Joshua James from the University of Texas, and Nicholas Barrash from Georgia Tech. These interns worked with our robot (also shown below) as well as our procedure assistance software.

TRACLabs summer interns

AFRL Researchers visit TRACLabs
Posted by at May 18th, 2012 @ 10:53 pm · Automation

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) researchers and their contractors visited TRACLabs for a Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) that focused on technologies for on-board satellite autonomy. The one-and-a-half-day meeting discussed topics such as planning, execution, fault detection, and flight experiments. TRACLabs has contracts with AFRL to provide on-board autonomy technology.


AFRL and contractor employees watching the NASA JSC Centaur robot go through its paces.

Texas A&M researchers visit TRACLabs
Posted by at March 9th, 2012 @ 4:32 pm · Robotics

Dr. Robin Murphy, Raytheon Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, and her student Zach Henkel recently visited TRACLabs. Dr. Murphy is collaborating with TRACLabs on a robotic system for the Army that will evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Dr. Murphy is a leading expert in the use of robots for search and rescue operations and directs the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. Dr. Murphy and her student are shown in the picture below with the TRACLabs dual-arm manipulation robot with a Texas A&M survivor interface.

Texas A&M professor Robin Murphy and her student Zach Henkel

SIFT researchers visit TRACLabs
Posted by at February 20th, 2012 @ 7:04 pm · Automation

Several researchers from Smart Information Flow Technologies (SIFT) visited TRACLabs recently. TRACLabs and SIFT are teamed on several projects supporting both the Air Force and NASA. SIFT brings expertise in automatic synthesis of control rules from high-level plans. This is combined with TRACLabs experience in automated planning and execution of plans. The Air Force is using this combined technology to provide on-board automation of satellites. NASA is interested in verifying and automating standard operating procedures. The picture below was taken in front of the Saturn V rocket at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas.

Left to right: David Kortenkamp (TRACLabs), David Musliner (SIFT), Michael Pelican (SIFT), Scott Bell (TRACLabs), Mary Beth Hudson (TRACLabs), Josh Hammell (SIFT)