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DARPA Unveils Atlas Humanoid Robot

Adario Strange
pcmag.com [1]
July 12, 2013

Some critics of military drones have called for a re-examination of how aerial robots are used [2] in human conflicts. But it turns out that there’s actually another kind of military robot on the horizon that may be far more threatening in terms of future human-robot encounters: the Atlas humanoid robot.

Developed by Boston Dynamics for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the 6’2″, 330-pound Atlas is the most advanced robot created by the organization to date. Evoking images of James Cameron’s sci-fi human hunter known as the Terminator, the human-scale proportions of Atlas give it the appearance of a mechanism simply waiting for a coating of artificial skin to be layered on.

The robot, an update of the previous PETMAN model [3], features two fully working hands with four fingers, including opposable thumbs, 28 hydraulically actuated joints, a “head” with LIDAR and stereo sensors, automatic crash protection, and an on-board, real-time control computer [4]. In a demonstration video (see below), the robot is shown easily avoiding obstacles, maintaining a steady gait despite unexpected changes to the terrain, and even maintaining its balance when struck by a large object.

While the hardware of Atlas is impressive, the end goal is to make the robot available to teams involved in the DARPA Robotics Challenge [5] (DRC) focused on developing innovative [4] software to control the robot’s functions. Last month, DARPA awarded funds and an Atlas robot [6] to more than a half dozen teams who competed in a software [4]challenge leading up to the first leg of the Robotics Challenge, which kicks off in December.

Full story here. [1]