Field robotics solves problems we can’t even imagine yet – but to capitalise, it needs a more diverse data set

Deep in the bowels of the Earth, some thirty metres below the bustling city of Louisville, Kentucky and unbeknownst to most of its 600,000 residents, an epic contest is about to unfold.

Gathered on the cool stone floor of the massive Louisville mega-cavern, a sprawling former limestone mine that now rates as Trip Advisors’ #1 local attraction, a team of CSIRO-designed robots are waiting for their cue.

Some of them are hardy-looking, all-terrain bots with shiny red casings and caterpillar-like tracks that can wheel them along over difficult ground. Then there’s a pack of vivid-yellow quadrupeds, like a gang of freakish future-dogs, loitering alongside.

A nervous team of CSIRO roboticists, who have been preparing for this moment for three long years, wait their turn. On the signal, it’s time to send the bots in.

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