As disaster response robots go, the humanoid ATLAS from Boston Dynamics is by far the most advanced. It's also the robot least likely to be trusted by those it attempts to rescue, owing to its similarity in appearance to the titular genocidal robots of the Terminator franchise. As of late, however, ATLAS has appeared a lot less threatening than your average red-eyed time traveler.
As part of DARPA's Robotics Challenge, which will begin trials this December 20th in Florida, DARPA has been furnishing a number of teams with ATLAS units. To prepare for what will assuredly be a rigorous and competitive challenge, the teams have recently been putting their ATLAS units through their paces. It's a process which hasn't exactly fueled much hype about the humanoid robots.
After breaking its ankle during a public demonstration in Hong Kong last month, ATLAS has now been felled again — though this time nothing broke. A Florida-based team from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition decided to test out some of the redundancies built into ATLAS' design. To do this, the switched off the advanced sensors housed in the robot's head and let it navigate a debris field blind.
For a blind robot, ATLAS did pretty well, navigating much of the jumbled blocks of wood and lengths of rope before finally being laid low by a two-by-four. If the robot's performance improves when the sensors are switched back on, then this December's Robotics Challenge could be quite the spectacle.