July 12, 2013
Some critics of military drones have called for a re-examination of how aerial robots are used  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 , 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 . 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  (DRC) focused on developing innovative  software to control the robot’s functions. Last month, DARPA awarded funds and an Atlas robot  to more than a half dozen teams who competed in a software challenge leading up to the first leg of the Robotics Challenge, which kicks off in December.
Full story here.