ATLAS robot gets closer to walking like a human

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When Boston Dynamics first revealed their ATLAS robot on July 11, 2013, the bipedal humanoid robot was a clunky, slow moving contraption tethered to a jumble of cords that performed a variety of controlled tasks awkwardly. Still, we were all impressed by the ATLAS robot’s humanlike legs and frame that no doubt offered a tantalizing glimpse into the near future of robotics.

Fast forward a year, and with help from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), the ATLAS robot has received some serious programming updates that enable it to walk like a human with more agility and control than ever before. As you can see in the video below, the ATLAS robot can walk over a series of raised steps with ease. Even more impressive is the robot’s ability to walk over a pile of jumbled cinder blocks while easily maintaining its balance. Although the ATLAS continues to perform these tasks slowly, its increased coordination and expanded capabilities are important milestones achieved that will only improve with time to include even greater agility and eventually, speed.

Its construction and development funded and overseen by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the ATLAS robot is approximately 6 feet tall and weighs about 330 pounds. The ATLAS is made out of aircraft-grade titanium and aluminum with blue LED lights mounted inside its chest. The humanoid owes its agility and balance to an onboard computer that receives information from a laser rangefinder and stereo cameras that survey and gauge the robot’s immediate surroundings.

Although built by Boston Dynamics, the ATLAS project is unique in that multiple robotics teams around the nation can get their hands on one to test the extent of their programming skills in preparation for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which “aims to develop semi-autonomous ground robots that can do ‘complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments.’” The winner of the challenge is awarded $2 million.

Can’t wait to fear see what next year’s ATLAS advances will bring!

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

58 Comments

  1. Pingback: Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS Robot Is Getting Closer to Walking like a Human |dream it. DO IT. Nebraska Blog

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  6. philvbo@sbcglobal.net'

    Yeah but give it a stick of gum and let’s see what happens. We humans didn’t get where we are by accident.

  7. bb@bb.com'

    Asia for the Asians, Africa for the Africans, White countries for Everybody!

    Why is nowhere ever “Too Black” or “Too Asian”, but ANYTHING White NEEDS “diversity” and “multiculturalism”?

    It seems like the “Race” problem is code for the “White” problem

    Diversity means racial and cultural replacement in ONLY white countries and ALL white countries.

    Diversity is CODE for White Genocide

    Anti racist is CODE for Anti White

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  9. countrysideflair@gmail.com'

    Who cares how slow it is… Strapping a minigun and rocket launcher to it brings the battle to it.

    • tgreenberg@hushmail.com'
      tony greenberg on

      You know they will! They will protect our leaders from “kooks” who don’t cotton to good leadership!

    • mksmith8940@yahoo.com'

      Do you think it can walk through RPG fire? For that matter, do you think the military jeapordize a five million dollar robot when they can throw a couple of soldiers at it instead?

    • sadfasdf@yahoo.com'

      Well thats good. When the robot revolt comes, you will be able to out run the kill bots. At least untill you need to sleep…

    • d.hanke@mchsi.com'

      This is the same group that gave us the mechanical mule. Which cost as much as 100,000 real mules and can’t be eaten by the troops.
      Long story short: it has nothing to do with actually developing a robot or android. It all has to do with gaining all those US govt tax dollars for the research.

  10. josephmartinez656@yahoo.com'

    The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

    Rev-16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

    2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

  11. Pingback: Boston Dynamics ATLAS Robot Makes Walking Progress - Techaeris

  12. blisteringlogic@yahoo.com'
    Blisteringlogic on

    Well, I hope no one is offended, but when the uprising happens, I will most likely sell out all of my fellow humans to our new benevolent robot overlords. I will be their human butt-monkey and keep my fellow humans obedient in exchange for their teaching me their robot ways.

  13. mquinn@lm76.com'

    Atlas, PETMAN and Cheetah (Boston Dynamics) are tethered robots. Google and their Robot Czar (Andy Rubin) purchased Boston Dynamics along with the leading point scorer in the DARPA Robot Challenge, TEAM SCHAFT (HRP-2 robot). Although the military (DARPA) has funded most of the teams in the DRC, Google is self funding and will no longer take government money ( the 2 million dollar prize). If we take Gordon Moore’s Law (Intel) – technology will double every 18 months – the SKYNET chip, the ability to free robots from tethers (cables) is not far away. Power supplies, actuators and most important processors are around the corner for improved recognition and stabilization. What will do Boston Dynamics Cheetah be like when it’s let loose – is free? A little scary… Go see “Red Planet” with Val Kilmer (2000) to see what happens when things go wrong – the programming gets damaged/corrupted.

    In 20 years, robots will cause major employment shifts – jarring ones. Transportation, security, manufacturing – on and on. Yet, our education system is a generation behind because education is run by politicians, not educators. Moreover, the integration of science and real hands on experience(s), particularly in grades 6-8 are minimal at best. Our education system is failing the masses and they (young people) are not being prepared for the technology positions (jobs) that will surround them – a world they will inherit. The US needs a technology/government
    team that will be prepared and ahead of the situation rather than reacting to it like panicked children. We need our children to be, and remain, technologically relevant!

    My personal assessment, particularly for inner city, minority youth is simple: accelerated rote reading, writing and computing from K-8 grades. In the 5th grade, begin to integrate a technology
    component which offers company visits, field trips and hands-on labs. The jobs of tomorrow will require technicians, human assistants etc. There will countless unemployed/under employed
    people with college BA’s who will not be relevant in a technology world that is fast coming upon us.

    Let’s get real!

    • mark@mgillett.com'

      I agree with you. The problem is the teacher’s union. The existing teacher base is way behind the curve and the current business model for selecting and keeping existing teachers does not bode well for the future of the company. There are many retired, whether by choice or not, qualified folks in our population that could ramp up the quality of our education system. The unions and their democrat minions will fight it tooth and nail.

    • thishouseis@yahoo.com'

      In reply to the issue of Moore’s Law, that was meant to apply to computing speed based on CPU architecture advances. NOT to any technology. For instance, cars depend on many technologies, but there hasn’t been a doubling of automobile speed, passenger capacity, or number of cup holders every 18 months. (All of the aforementioned have been tagged with the nomenclature of technology at some point). Medicine is full of technology and so is agriculture. It would be nice to see them advance at a faster pace but we’re having no such luck.

      As far as computers go, those used in machines like Atlas are probably at the level of an Intel 286, because that’s all they require. More of what makes a robot work is made up of servo motors and gears, which are closer to automotive technologies than computers.

      I’ll start to worry when my can opener rebels and organizes the tuna fish tins.

      • iqubviu@aol.com'

        Actually Moore’s law is just a tiny piece of the law of accelerating returns. How many cars aren’t being made with computers in them? How many businesses including farming medicine and manufacturing do not include the use of computers? NONE!
        Soon everything will be manufactured using 3d printers with computers built into everything. Including humans. Think Pacemakers and cochlear implants to name a few. Talking nonsense about rebel can openers or doubling of auto speed obviously misses the point. As the computers that are already involved in every aspect of our lives double in power there will come a point that all technology explodes out of the box, Once powerful AI can out think humans the world will be changed forever.

  14. libertarian4freedom@gmail.com'
    libertarian4freedom on

    Wish Atlas and SpaceX and other techies would get together:
    invent a spaceship that, once landed on mars or moon;
    would transform into an atlas robot that could pull his work sled where ever he went.
    atlas would also be covered in solar panals;
    the work sled would be solar powered;
    and would include easy replaceable parts if the robot gets damaged.
    maybe also include on next mission a solar still and little green house, about the size of a small aquarium with some type of plant that can be placed on surface, and monitored from earth so millions of people can watch on the web what happens.
    thanks

    • mrubin62@gmail.com'

      Its a good idea but not possible for a machine of that size. There simply is not enough watts per unit area in sunlight to do the job, even if the solar panels were 100% efficient, there is not enough energy per unit area. The robot would consume more energy per unit time than the amount of incoming solar energy per unit area per unit time, no matter how efficient the solar panels might be, this limitation would exist. Also, much of the robot surface area is vertical which would also diminish the solar energy capture which is maximized with panels at right angles relative to the incoming light direction.

      The trick is to get rid of the unit time variable, and this can be done by storing the incoming solar energy in a battery that accumulates the energy over many hours. The robot would then charge up and could consume this amount of energy in a shorter period of time to achieve the power needed. Energy is a measure without time consideration. Power is energy per unit time.

      As an example, I have a miniature back-up car battery about the size of a baseball. It contains a lot less energy than a normal sized battery and can only be used to start the car up a couple of times before it needs to be recharged. But it is capable of delivering the power needed for a few seconds to start the engine up just like a regular sized car battery could.

  15. faktor@nventure.com'

    It won’t really walk like a human until it stops for no reason in the middle of doorways.

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  17. joe@gmail.com'

    its amazing how difficult it is to create the technology to preform what we perceive as simple bodily functions.. but robotics is moving ahead at a staggering pace…and will start to leapfrog soon, similar to the 90′ home computer tech..

  18. dcriner@ieee.org'

    Couple of questions. First, why does “he” (the robot) need that large cable connecting to him? Who’s running it, the robot itself or somebody outside of view with a mouse and keyboard? The video should have shown a panorama of the whole setup, including where the cable led to.

    It would have been interesting for an independent party to re-arrange the pile of concrete blocks (while on camera) in a random pattern, and see how the robot then does.

      • gman322@gmail.com'

        You are an idiot. It IS balancing itself. those cables are there for input and diagnostics. The other cord is there in case it falls over so it doesn’t get destroyed. Go back to your Bieber videos on youtube.

    • samhall@swbell.net'

      The cable is mainly power. This is an R&D project on robotic motion, why should they expend the money and time to build in a power source when that doesn’t tell them anything?

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