Sitting in a Kirrawee factory unit is a little six-wheeled machine that looks like some nutty science experiment or a remote control car with attitude. While its current appearance makes it look innocent enough, this rambunctious robot is anything but benign.
Created by Richard Aplin and a team from Strategic Engineering, the machine has just been selected as one of 12 finalists for the Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC), jointly sponsored by the Federal Defence Science and Technology Organisation and US Department of Defense.
The team's entry is in the running for $US750,000 in prizemoney, not to mention potential research grants and lucrative defence contracts.
Mr Aplin hopes one day the robot will replace soldiers on dangerous search-and-destroy missions in places like Afghanistan.
"It will be able to enter a building and make a 3D map of the interior,'' he said. "It may eventually have a weapon as well.''
Mr Aplin's submission included a prototype robot plus detailed video presentation outlining the machine's development, construction and potential.
Defence Minister Greg Combet said of the 12 teams, five are from the US, four from Australia, and one each from Canada, Japan and Turkey.
"Most of the teams comprise partnerships between universities and companies at the forefront of robotics technology, such as Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, General Dynamics, Thales Australia and the University of Adelaide,'' he said.
Shortlisted teams will be reduced to five in June 2010, when each of the finalists will get an extra $US50,000 to complete their projects for the grand challenge event, to be held in South Australia in November 2010.