01:15 - Source: CNN
Robots battle for $2 million prize
CNN  — 

A US government agency dedicated to the development of top-secret military technologies has a pressing need: an underground lair. And they need it by close of business today.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, tweeted the appeal Wednesday.

“Attention, city dwellers!” the tweet read. “We’re interested in identifying university-owned or commercially managed underground urban tunnels & facilities able to host research & experimentation.”

“It’s short notice,” they admitted. “We’re asking for responses by Aug. 30 at 5:00 PM ET.”

Attached to it were a series of photos – a dimly lit parking garage, an underground bunker with Polish signage, and an empty subway station – and a link to the formal proposal on a government website.

People were understandably suspicious.

After all, these are the folks who brought us stealth weaponry, the M16 Assault Rifle, and military drones, as well as more every day advances like, say, the internet, the computer mouse, and Siri. And here they are in desperate need of a massive underground space to run some experiments – we’re talking ones “spanning several city blocks” that are free of everyday people like you and me.

When one Twitter user joked, “We are definitely not looking for new places to keep all the Demogorgons,” the monster from the Upside Down in Stranger Things, the agency quickly clarified: “Please. Demogorgons are such a Department of Energy thing.”

The Department of Energy didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment.

DARPA, however, told CNN the tweet was nothing to worry about.

“DARPA issued the request for information last week seeking university-owned or commercially managed underground urban tunnels and facilities, and yesterday’s social media posts were a reminder of the upcoming deadline to respond,” Jared B. Adams, DARPA’s Chief of Communications, told CNN.

The tweet was meant to help find locations for DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge, a competition that seeks novel approaches and breakthrough technologies that might help the US military and first responders navigate tunnels, the “urban underground,” and cave networks.

It promises more than $5 million in prizes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory called it the “Robot Olympics.”

Think autonomous robots that scurry around underground corridors looking for bad guys.

“Complex urban underground infrastructure can present significant challenges for situational awareness in time-sensitive scenarios, such as active combat operations or disaster response,” Adams explained.

So next time you find yourself exploring an abandoned tunnel deep under a US city and something scurries by, don’t worry, that’s an autonomous killer cave robot.

Just move along. Quickly.