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Robot wins $2 million in disaster challenge

The next time a disaster hits, it might be a robot from South Korea that saves the day.

Named DRC-Hubo, the robot and its Team Kaist walked away with the $2 million prize over the weekend in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Launched in response to the nuclear plant disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, the DARPA competition aims to accelerate the development of robots with sufficient dexterity and robustness to enter areas too dangerous for humans.

The hope is that the robots could one day do everything from rescuing survivors trapped in rubble to putting out fires to entering a crippled nuclear reactor.

"Today was incredible. It was everything we hoped it would be and more," Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager in charge of the challenge, said in a news conference following the finals on Saturday.

After two years of research, 23 teams turned up at a fairground in California for the DARPA Challenge. The robots - some operating on four legs but most looking like a wired-up human on two - were required to complete four simulated disaster courses featuring eight tasks including driving a vehicle alone, walking through rubble and climbing stairs.

A dozen teams from the United States and another eleven competitors from Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong competed in the outdoor competition.

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The robot from Florida's Team IMHC Robotics took a tumble trying to climb over rubble but still finished second. DARPA

The Korean robot completed the tasks in a winning time of less than 45 minutes. Coming in second and taking home a $1 million prize was Team IHMC Robotics from Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Its robot, Running Man, finished the tasks in just over 50 minutes.

The third place finisher, earning the $500,000 prize, was Tartan Rescue of Pittsburgh, and its robot CHIMP. It finished the course in a little more than 55 minutes.

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