Carnegie Mellon University
February 09, 2016

CMU’s CHIMP Featured on NOVA’s “Rise of the Robots”

Feb. 24 Episode Focuses on DARPA Robotics Challenge

By Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

Chimp in the Car

Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Rescue Team and its CHIMP robot are featured in “Rise of the Robots,” the Feb. 24 episode of PBS’s NOVA.

The episode of the long-running science series looks at the current state of robots with human-like capabilities and considers the enormous challenges that remain before humanoid robots and semi-humanoids, like CHIMP, are ready to become part of our everyday lives.

Much of the episode revolves around the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, in which CHIMP and 23 of the world’s most advanced robots attempted to perform a series of tasks necessary to respond to a manmade or natural disaster. The robots drove vehicles, climbed stairs, used power tools, and closed valves and cleared debris, among other tasks, to see which could complete them in the least amount of time.

CHIMP — the CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform — placed third in the June 2015 contest in Pomona, Calif., bringing home a $500,000 prize.

Roughly the size of a human, CHIMP rolls on tank-like treads attached to each of its four limbs and can move on all fours or stand up right. All but one of the robots in the competition fell down at least once; CHIMP was the only one able to get back up on its own and complete the course after fallilng.

DARPA provided NOVA’s production crew with privileged access to the competition. The crew also visited CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center prior to the finals to see the CMU team’s preparations.

Watch the video trailer for the episode.  

In Pittsburgh, NOVA airs at 9 p.m. EST on WQED-TV.

CHIMP also is featured in director Werner Herzog’s latest film, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” set for release in late June. CHIMP, along with HERB, CMU’s robot butler, appears in the National Geographic Studio’s giant-screen documentary, “Robots,” now playing at the Carnegie Science Center and numerous science centers around the world.