If once, and not that many years ago, the word "robot" reminded most of us of some made up futuristic creature, that takes place mainly in sci-fi films, today in 2021 it seems difficult to think of an area to which robots did not "invade" our world.
Toy robots, industrial robots in production lines, household robots (such as vacuum cleaners and pool cleaners), medical robots, and also security robots most often used in the police and military, For bomb disposal and suspected IEDs. These robots have saved and will continue saving lives on a daily basis, and as they grow smarter and more accurate, human life can be preserved. Currently, there are still "mines" that need to be removed to make way for life- saving robots with perfect capabilities. One of the most challenging technological gaps that employ security systems around the world is the need to be able to perform tasks inside structures without a person present on the ground, using remote-operated technological means.
"The Defense Ministry is constantly looking for advanced technologies in order to bring an operational advantage to the field. Over the past two years, the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure has focused its efforts on developing autonomous robotic technologies for domestic and foreign missions, " says Lt. Col. Ryan Gity, head of the Autonomous Systems Department at the Directorate of Research and Development in Technology Research and Infrastructure.
Now, in order to locate technologies and products relevant to this challenge, the MoSAIC Challenge has been launched, a $600,000 reward challenge that will be given to innovative companies/researchers/technologies aimed at enabling the operation of robotic within buildings. The challenge is led by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the Director of Technical Support for Irregular Warfare (IWTSD), the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD), the Research Administration and development of drones and technological infrastructures from the DDR&D and the Merage Institute, established by the philanthropists Paul and Lilly Merage, together with a goal to create and locate new technologies in the field and promoting their development.
"The U.S. Department of Defense realized many years ago that groundbreaking innovations are taking place outside government labs and traditional defense contractors," explains International Program Manager IWTSD Adam Tarsi. "We are sponsoring the MoSAIC challenge, together with our partners at the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, to ensure that we locate and identify all relevant technologies that can provide our military’s tactical operators and law enforcement agencies with every technological advantage when operating in challenging and high-risk internal environments."
Any company that presents its candidacy will enter an e-book, which will be widely distributed to American and Israeli government officials in order to enable direct contact by government officials to companies with the relevant technology and products. The challenge’s team of judges is made of government content experts. Candidates selected by the judges to participate in advanced stages of the challenge will have access to workshops, knowledge sessions, network events, mentoring and media advertising. The winners of each of the five mini challenges will be announced at the final event held in Tel Aviv in spring of 2022, and will have the chance to meet clients and sponsors from the Israeli and U.S. governments, as well as investors and other international partners, and will receive financial awards and free participation in the Leadership Program for Start-Up Managers of the Merage Institute in California.
The potential of the challenge for first time contestants can be measured by the success rate of similar collaborations from previous years. The MoSAIC challenge Offers companies and researchers Many advantages, mainly this is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often to present their technological solutions to government officials from The U.S. and Israel.
IWTSD's Liaison Officer to Israel Shana Yakobi mentions that "There are many success stories of companies that have resulted from their participation in past challenges of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and IWTSD. For example, RoboTiCan and Third Eye are two companies with active R&D programs with the US and Israeli governments that were initially brought to our attention when they participated in similar challenges in the past. We wouldn't know about these companies if it wasn't for the challenge. I believe that everyone who enters the challenge gets opportunities for exposure and connections even thanks to their presentation in the eBook of the challenge.
The challenge will be divided into five mini challenges with each challenge focusing on a different capability, two of which are physical: discovering human presence through walls; tactical robotic systems for movement within structures while overcoming obstacles; and three of the mini-challenges that will be virtual: navigating within a structure; mapping structure; tagging people and objects. Each of the mini-challenges is of considerable importance, as told by Gity, head of the Department of Autonomous Systems at the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure: "With the understanding that the progress of the development of technological solutions for internal robotics is much more mature in non-military industries, we have decided, together with the American IWTSD and with the help of the Technological Division of the IDF's Ground Forces, to initiate a challenge that will help us locate and identify the technologies. By integrating these five challenges into MOSAIC, we will be able to develop the next generation of internal robotics," says Gity, emphasizing, "By integrating these five challenges into the MoSAIC framework, we will be able to develop the next generation of internal robotics."
Paul Merage, founder and CEO of the Merage Institute, is looking forward to seeing the participants in the challenge and mentions other benefits that will emerge from taking part in it: "The MoSAIC Challenge is a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs, researchers and companies to present the technology they are developing to the U.S. and Israeli governments, create international collaborations, and identify new opportunities in the field that present a growing demand for technologies that enable autonomous maneuver in closed spaces. "The Merage Institute is glad to use its capabilities as a leading center for the development of Israeli entrepreneurs and startups in developing cooperation with the American market.
The physical demonstration phase of the challenge is scheduled to take place in spring 2022 in the city of Yeruham. Tal Ohana, head of the Yeruham regional Council, said: "As part of an entire ecosystem in the field of unmanned aerial tools, including a test field, an academic campus and an accelerator for companies in the near future, we are proud to host the MoSAIC International Challenge in Yeruham, which will be attended by companies from all over the world. The choice of Yeruham as a site for the competition reflects the technological revolution that the city has undergon in recent years. The ecosystem in the field of unmanned aerial tools is one of the main growth engines in the city. The challenge is a way for us to show the companies the existing infrastructures in the city of Yeruham that can support their business development processes. We thank our friends at the IWTSD ,and the Merage Institute for having faith in Yeruham."
Being a competition, it is permissible to mention – there are prizes for the big winners. With a cash prize of $600,000 that will be distributed to winners in each of the five challenges. And the really big prize, the one that doesn't necessarily have an exact "amount" or "date" but gives the greatest value and meaning to the project, is called: Saving Lives. So, it may not be the year when robots change babies’ diapers, or take your dog for a walk at 6 am, but when it’ll be a year that brings robots to complex security missions with high end technology, we'll all have a reason to smile.