The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is joining forces with robotics research firm Willow Garage, Menlo Park, Calif., to create an international competition to drive improvements in the sensing and perception technologies of future robots.

“Perception is the key bottleneck to robotics. This competition will advance solutions to perception problems, widening applications for next-generation adaptive, sensing robots,” says Gary Bradski, Willow Garage senior scientist.

The competition will debut at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2011, to be held May 9 to 13 in Shanghai, China, and will measure the performance of current algorithms that process and act on data gathered with cameras and other types of sensing devices. Willow Garage will present cash awards for excellent performers: The top prize is up to $7,000, awarded for successful completion of all tasks within the allotted time.

Contestants will receive a common set of about 35 objects for training and tweaking their algorithms. During the competition, teams will be evaluated on how well their ideas identify and determine the positions of these 35 objects plus an additional set of 15 objects for validation. For more information, visit opencv.willowgarage.com/wiki/SolutionsInPerceptionChallenge.