In addition to Atlas maintaining balance on rough terrain and moving boxes from the floor to a shelving unit, the video showcases the humanoid robot successfully standing up after being knocked on its face by a Boston Dynamics team member. Such agility is a huge advancement in humanoid robotics. As seen at last summer’s DARPA Robotics Challenge, when a robot fell down, it would need to be manually reset.
The company elaborated on the features of the upgraded Atlas:
[Atlas is] designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain and help with navigation. This version of Atlas is about 5′ 9″ tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs.
Founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2013, the company was acquired by Google X, a research and development subsidiary of Google. The company is best known for its development of “BigDog,” a quadruped robot built in 2005 for the U.S. military and financed by DARPA.
Also developed for military use was the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, but field testing proved the robot to be too loud to be effectively used without giving away the soldiers’ location. The development of a smaller and quieter robot, “Spot,” powered electrically instead of with a petrol engine solved the noise issue, yet lacks the carrying capacity of the LS3. Boston Dynamic has shelved both LS3 and Spot and do not currently have plans for future experiments on either.
To date the company has developed nine robots, including the “Cheetah,” which broke the speed record for legged robots at an impressive 28 miles per hour. But maybe it’s motivated by threats of hockey stick abuse. Boston Dynamics might want to keep an eye on the employee in the video, should any of their robots gain self awareness.
Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.