Meet Atlas, The Pentagon's Agile New Robot

Earnest Cavalli

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Meet Atlas, The Pentagon's Agile New Robot


James Cameron's warnings remain unheeded as the Pentagon unveils a new 6'1"-tall humanoid robot capable of jumping and climbing stairs.

That video embedded at top-right debuted this morning as the public's first look at Atlas, a new robot developed by the futurist tech geeks at Boston Dynamics and funded by the Pentagon. It stands 6'1" tall, is more or less human-shaped (assuming we're talking about humans without heads), and is extremely agile. The 'bot weighs in at a relatively light 330 pounds which, combined with a level of mobility that sees the machine able to climb stairs and leap somewhat gracefully into the air, allows it to traverse extremely rough terrain. Theoretically Atlas should be able to go anywhere a person can while lugging heavy loads and never suffering the sort of fatigue stress a mammalian body will inevitably encounter.

"Atlas is a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain," reads the official description from Boston Dynamics. "Atlas can walk bipedally, leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and co-ordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces."

Atlas also has dual vision modes, utilizing both standard stereoscopic vision (the sort of sight that you're most familiar with) as well as laser-based vision. Researchers hope that these accoutrements will aid Atlas in its potential future role as a search and rescue robot for areas of the planet that would otherwise be inhospitable to living people, such as collapsed buildings or areas filled with toxic gas.

Now that Atlas has made its public debut, the Pentagon is sending six copies of the machine to various tech-focused universities around the US who will then compete in a series of competitions to see who can push Atlas the furthest. These challenges will include comprehensive tests of Atlas's abilities, and the 'bot will be tasked with such feats as "crossing a field of rubble" and "driving a vehicle" - exactly the sort of thing Atlas might encounter in a rescue situation.

Of course, this being a government project in an era where George Orwell's visions of an omnipresent police state appear more and more realistic, it's not difficult to imagine the offspring of the Atlas project treading across the battlefield, gun in hand, spraying bullets at America's enemies in countries too poor to fund multi-million dollar robotic soldiers. Neither Boston Dynamics nor the Pentagon has revealed any plans to push Atlas into this kind of service, but if we keep churning out humanoid robots with increasingly impressive feature sets, it seems inevitable that at some point someone will decide to arm the things.

Source: YouTube [http://youtu.be/zkBnFPBV3f0]

(Edit: Originally this story claimed that Atlas weighs only 33 pounds. That's both silly and a typo. It has since been amended.)

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Kenjitsuka

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Highly impressive stuff in the video!
And if this is true: "'bot will be tasked with such feats as "crossing a field of rubble" and "driving a vehicle", then it can use a CAR on top? That's indeed VERY close to Terminator impressivenes!!!

Of course the social part (talking) is a way different challenge, but I never saw Arnie do very much more then "Fuck off!" and straight forward inquire. So sneaking into bases of the future resistance... not *yet* ;-)
 

Jandau

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Dec 19, 2008
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...now I'm disappointed. Oh well, I guess we have to start somewhere. It will be interesting when these things finally get out of the experimental stage. Or that 4 legged dog-bot that's been in the news a few time during the past year...
 

Raesvelg

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Earnest Cavalli said:
The 'bot weighs a mere 33 pounds...
You missed a zero there. 330 pounds.

Which should make its agility all the more terrifying.
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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Aww, come on. If you're gonna name your robot Atlas, it needs to look like this:

P.S. Thanks
 

ZZoMBiE13

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Usually when one of these robotics related stories gets posted here, I make some snarky comment about Skynet and preparing for our glorious robot overlords. But damn. That thing is as impressive as it is terrifying. So I'm just going to go hug my family and say a prayer or something.

Did they have to make it look so much like a progenitor of the T-100?
 

CriticalMiss

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So does ATLAS only work if there is pounding techno in the background? That would make future warfare all the more terrifying when you are huddled amongst the ruins of the local pub and hear some hardcore Belgian trance in the distance, heralding your robotic doom-unce-unce-unce.
 

Ace Morologist

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Earnest Cavalli said:
Of course, this being a government project in an era where George Orwell's visions of an omnipresent police state appear more and more realistic, it's not difficult to imagine the offspring of the Atlas project treading across the battlefield, gun in hand, spraying bullets at America's enemies in countries too poor to fund multi-million dollar robotic soldiers. Neither Boston Dynamics nor the Pentagon has revealed any plans to push Atlas into this kind of service, but if we keep churning out humanoid robots with increasingly impressive feature sets, it seems inevitable that at some point someone will decide to arm the things.
Settle down...

For one thing, the guns would probably be mounted on the robots' forearms, not held in their hands. And the scope on the gun would just be another eye as far as the computer's concerned. Oh, and if they have something like that TrackingPoint aim-assistance technology built in, they'd probably never miss. Or at least very rarely.

Also, they'd probably have some sort of head- or shoulder-mounted IR laser thingee to help their aerial support guys target their air strikes. Or they'd just communicate wirelessly with armed hunter-killer predator drones directly to set up and aim said air strikes themselves.

And don't forget the cheap ones that are basically just walking bombs stuffed full of C-4 (or whatever). Sneak it behind enemy lines to soft points on key infrastructure (or right into the enemy's lair) and KAPOW.

Or... sheesh... the tougher little ones that can fold up into a tight crash-resistant ball small enough to be carried and deployed by the aforementioned unmanned drones before deploying deep in enemy territory.

Shoot, you could turn every tank into an unmanned vehicle with a 1-1 simulator full of motion-capture... stuff, then garb the tankers in the funny ping pong ball suits and Oculus rift helmets to communicate across the miles (or at least from the safety of your base) with the robots who are in the actual tanks.

Robots carrying guns? That's bush league, buddy. I came up with these just sitting here. Think what a team of geniuses with Pentagon funding could do.

--Morology!

PS: Oh, and when you think of such stuff, don't freak out. It's just the future, man.
 

Johnson McGee

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At this rate we're going to have superbly stable robot humanoids... that are all tethered to a power source while we wait 30 years for battery technology to catch up.
 

uchytjes

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Johnson McGee said:
At this rate we're going to have superbly stable robot humanoids... that are all tethered to a power source while we wait 30 years for battery technology to catch up.
This. Until we can actually advance batteries to a point where they are both light and powerful, we won't have robot soldiers.

OT: I want one that can be a butler-type robot. Also, the always important question: Can you fuck it?
 

kajinking

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Jandau said:

...now I'm disappointed. Oh well, I guess we have to start somewhere. It will be interesting when these things finally get out of the experimental stage. Or that 4 legged dog-bot that's been in the news a few time during the past year...
Me and my Jenner-F are not impressed!

OT: Until we don't need to plug the damn things in (See:Evangelion) we aren't going to have very good battle robots, even then something else is likely to get in the way.
 

faefrost

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Am I the only one that keeps hearing the phrase "By Your Command"? Followed closely by "EXTERMINATE!!!"
 

Lazy Kitty

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faefrost said:
Am I the only one that keeps hearing the phrase "By Your Command"? Followed closely by "EXTERMINATE!!!"
Well, I do hear a 4 drum beat all the time, but that's just because one of my hard disks is broken.

OT: I can't wait until we actually start upgrading the meatbags.
 

Kevlar Eater

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uchytjes said:
Johnson McGee said:
At this rate we're going to have superbly stable robot humanoids... that are all tethered to a power source while we wait 30 years for battery technology to catch up.
This. Until we can actually advance batteries to a point where they are both light and powerful, we won't have robot soldiers.

OT: I want one that can be a butler-type robot. Also, the always important question: Can you fuck it?
Hopefully, but I think Japan will beat us to the punch, once service bots become as easy to mass-produce as cars and be priced similarly.
 

DevilWithaHalo

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Johnson McGee said:
At this rate we're going to have superbly stable robot humanoids... that are all tethered to a power source while we wait 30 years for battery technology to catch up.
Isn't that the basis for Eva's?

Consider the possibility of outside thinking; solar panels grafted onto the exoskeleton. We don't know how much power Atlas requires to function (although probably slightly more than solar power can generate). We could also construct a piston like mechanism somewhere that helps maintain a charge on his battery much like a car does.

Cool stuff regardless; I like seeing our leaps in technology with near unlimited possibilities (terminators aside).
 

ZeroAxis

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<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/HfGMCbSBrog" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>


They'll just skin it with this..........http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfGMCbSBrog

or more accurately...........http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/february/bao-stretchable-solar-022211.html

Sorry, I'll get better at this in time
 

Raesvelg

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Earnest Cavalli said:
Raesvelg said:
Earnest Cavalli said:
The 'bot weighs a mere 33 pounds...
You missed a zero there. 330 pounds.

Which should make its agility all the more terrifying.
Correct. Stupid typo. Our bad. It's been fixed.
Good, good.

Because there's no way that a 33 pound robot could carry a minigun, after all.

 

Pyrian

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Earnest Cavalli said:
...the 'bot will be tasked with such feats as "crossing a field of rubble" and "driving a vehicle" - exactly the sort of thing Atlas might encounter in a rescue situation.
They're going to need some longer cables.

Seriously, robotics these days resembles a car show in which none of the cars have engines. It's not like it's impossible to build robots that can carry their power source, it just means you've got to be a great deal more efficient with everything else. "Atlas" is probably a reference to what it would look like fully powered - staggering around with a planet on its shoulders. (Since this is the internet, I'm going to pre-emptively point out that the preceding statement was hyperbole.)

They should be starting with self-powered robots and seeing where they can go, rather than powering things by cable that are basically fantasies of what might one day be possible rather than practical designs.