Google’s newly acquired robotics company wins DARPA Challenge Trials

From the Left: Schaft COO Narito Suzuki, CEO Yuto Nakanishi, and the Schaft robot (from DARPA video)

Recently Google acquired Schaft, a Japanese robotics company that grew out of the University of Tokyo. The company won the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials this weekend in Miami, an event aimed at encouraging engineers across the world to develop disaster relief robots, in response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

During the competition, robots were tested to measure their motor capabilities in eight different tasks like climbing up-and-down a ladder, removing obstacles and debris, and driving a car. 16 teams competed to advance to the 2014 Finals in an effort to win the $2 million grand prize. The Schaft team took top place, beating out tough competitors like IHMC, Carnegie Mellon University, and MIT.

The company was launched by humanoid scientists Yuto Nakahishi and Junichi Urata back in 2012. Prior to its acquisition by Google, it was backed by Tokyo-based startup incubator TomyK [1] and Tsuneishi Partners, the investment arm of a leading shipbuilding company in Japan.

  1. TomyK is focused on incubating hardware startups, and was launched by Tomihisa Kamada, the inventor of the Japanese feature phone web browser ‘i-mode‘.