DARPA introduces cool humanoid disaster response ATLAS robot

Meet ATLAS, a cool, yet creepy-looking robot built by Boston Dynamics for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). ATLAS could be the future of advanced disaster response and will be a first step to using robots, rather than humans, to help during major world catastrophes, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident.

ATLAS stands at a hulking 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 330 pounds. The robot was designed to be used by the seven teams that progressed from DARPA's Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC). ATLAS is already capable of a variety of natural movement, including dynamic walking and calisthenics. However, the teams are being challenged to teach ATLAS the moves it will need to pass the DRC trials in December, which will be organized around a disaster response scenario.

The teams will not be starting from scratch, though — ATLAS comes equipped with some nice features, including an on-board real-time computer, on-board hydraulic pump and thermal management, the ability to be tethered for networking, hydraulically-actuated joints, a Carnegie Robotics sensor head, a laser range finder and stereo sensors. But the programming and software to get the robot through the trials? That's all up to the teams involved.

In addition to their very own ATLAS, each of the seven teams will also receive funding from DARPA, as well as technical support from Boston Dynamics.

According to Gill Pratt, program manager for the DARPA Robotics Challenge:

“The Virtual Robotics Challenge was a proving ground for teams’ ability to create software to control a robot in a hypothetical scenario. The DRC Simulator tasks were fairly accurate representations of real world causes and effects, but the experience wasn’t quite the same as handling an actual, physical robot. Now these seven teams will see if their simulation-honed algorithms can run a real machine in real environments. And we expect all teams will be further refining their algorithms, using both simulation and experimentation.”

Watch the Rocky montage-like video below to see some of ATLAS' sweet moves.


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