Google’s humanoid robot takes a test walk

18 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google’s robot running through woods is a terrifying glimpse into our future.

Boston Dynamics, which is the same company behind the cheetah robot that can run and jump over obstacles, revealed in a recent video how its bipedal robot Atlas could go for a run in the woods, a pretty complicated task considering the rough terrain it had to navigate and balance upon. “Our focus is on balance and dynamics and working a little bit the way people and animals do where you move quickly in order to keep yourself stabilized,” Boston Dynamics Founder Marc Raiber said in the video. “We’re interested in getting this robot out in the world,” Raiber continued during a presentation for MIT’s Fab Foundation. “Out in the world is just a totally different challenge than in the lab.BOSTON DYNAMICS, the terrifying robot division of newly formed Google parent company Alphabet, has been showing off its humanoid running man, known as Atlas, on manoeuvres outside the lab. You can’t predict what it’s going to be like.” Raiber said Atlas has “mobility that’s within shooting range of yours,” as a video of it picking through bushes and jogging on a woodland trail played next to him.

Atlas was created by Boston Dynamics, the Google-owned robotics company also famous for its speedy robotic cheetah and its swimming, snow-climbing BigDog. According to Boston Dynamics’ website, Atlas has “28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet and a torso.” Its head features “stereo cameras and a laser range finder.” Currently, Atlas is tethered to an electric power supply, but Raiber revealed that they’re working on equipping Atlas with an untethered power source. The impressive — and perhaps mildly alarming — footage of Atlas staggering around like the less-coordinated cousin of a Transformers character has been making the rounds online after it was shown at the Fab Lab 11 conference and symposium in Cambridge, Mass., earlier this month.

Observers quite often grimace at the sight of Boston Dynamics’ creations because their movements are so authentically biological, but their appearance is so ghastly. It was the first time the company had shared video of one of its humanoid robots on an outdoor excursion. (Though its quadrupeds have been frequently filmed running in the wild.) But Atlas wasn’t simply gripped by a Thoreauvian yen to experience nature. When the robot uprising happens, you’ll have Google—or Alphabet, as its parent company is soon to be called—to thank for those robots’ ability to track through the world.

According to the Boston Globe, much of the company’s research is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is trying to develop robots that can perform tasks in military and disaster-related situations that would be unsafe for humans. And if that’s not terrifying enough, the engineers at Boston Dynamics—seemingly taking inspiration from the evil kid in the first “Toy Story” movie—have made a robot dog with an arm for a head.

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