Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by Edsel Cook
The mythical Atlas is a strong but stupid Titan who is forced to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders as punishment for fighting against the Greek gods. Boston Dynamics’ much more unnerving Atlas is a humanoid robot that can bend, hope, move, and run like a human being, a Live Science article stated.
Built by Boston Dynamics – the same robotics lab that made BigDog and the very creepy SpotMini –, Atlas is touted as the most dynamic humanoid robot in the world. Its purported mission is to perform search-and-rescue missions.
It is funded and overseen by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Other companies involved in its development are Sandia National Laboratories and iRobot, the makers of the infamous Roomba vacuum robots.
Every now and then, Boston Dynamics posted videos of the increasingly capable humanoid robot in action. The May 2018 footage featured the innocuous title of “Getting some air, Atlas?” and demonstrated the uncanny human-like movement of the machine in an open, outdoor environment.(Related: Coming soon: An army of hunter-killer robots that will murder humanity.)
In the video, Atlas was shown jogging through a quiet area. Whereas a human would be huffing from the exertion, the robot was constantly issuing clanking and whirring noises from its gears, joints, and motor as its untiring limbs carried it forward.
Despite the mechanical noises that accompanied its every movement, Atlas moved in much the same way a living, breathing human being would. It was especially eerie given that the title of the video implied that the robot “decided” to get some air and ended up jogging.
In the course of the video, as it slowly but steadily trod across grassy fields, the robot reached a log. Atlas was shown to pause and steady itself before bending its knees while raising its arms and then performing a jump over the log.
It stuck the landing, too, which was a much better performance than in an earlier video where its previous version tripped on a stage light and tumbled off the stage at the end of its demonstration.
Other viral videos of Atlas showed that its capabilities have improved over the years. In February 2016, the robot was shown striding through the snowy forest, putting boxes on shelves, and recovering its balance after a Boston Dynamics employee poked it.
In November 2017, Atlas demonstrated its agility by hopping onto blocks and then off them. It even pulled off an agile back-flip while on a block.
The new video was the first one that covered Atlas’ “free running” capabilities in an outdoor environment. It seemed Boston Dynamics is testing the robot’s ability to keep its balance while traversing rough terrain found outdoors.
The company’s website reported that the newest sensors installed on Atlas enabled it to cross uneven surfaces. Atlas will also be able to recover from stumbling or falling over, so stage lights will no longer be able to take it down.
In 2013, the same year that Atlas was first introduced, artificial intelligence expert Gary Bradski claimed that “a new species, Robo sapiens, [is] emerging.” Back then, DARPA program manager Gill Pratt compared the robot to a human child that could barely walk and often fell down.
Now Atlas is capable of running through the woods like a robotic Jason Vorhees. In time, once it gains an artificial voice box, it might start demanding to know the location of Sarah Connor.
You can keep a wary eye on the growing capabilities of humanoid robots by visiting Robotics.news.