Engineering and robotics company Boston Dynamics has just released a video showing its latest version of Atlas. I can confirm it’s quieter, smarter, and considerably steadier on its feet, and has also lost its tether.
Some experts have even commented that they have never seen a humanoid robot with such a level of agility. Atlas is shown walking through snow, which it stumbled a bit but overall did quite well, it also shows it squatting as it picks up boxes and being pushed around, even with distractions Atlas continues with its task.
At one point, a member of the Boston Dynamics team gives Atlas a push to its upper back where it falls over, face first on to the floor. However Atlas was able to correct itself and continue on.
During the DARPA Robotics Challenge one of the most common problems with the robots was the inability to keep the robots upright.
The newest Atlas weighs in at 180 lb (82 kg), which is closer to the weight of an average human. The robot stands at 5ft 9in (175 cm) and has many sensors, including stereo camera and LIDAR. It is a battery powered version making it sleeker, quieter, and much more agile.
Boston Dynamics explains:
“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.”
Ken Goldberg, a robotics professor at UC Berkeley told Wired:
“It’s definitely kind of jaw dropping; they’ve really smoothed out a lot of the motion.”
The extra smoothness in the robot’s motions made him feel pretty weird, especially when Atlas got prodded by the dude with the hockey stick.
“It definitely triggered the uncanny valley response,” he says. “I mean, most of us probably had the same reaction when it got pushed around: We expected it to turn around and blast that guy with a laser beam.”
December last year plans to develop a dog-like robot in the hope it could follow troops while carrying extra kit. But it was shelved after the military deemed it to be too noisy for combat purposes.