By July 12, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Military tests 6-foot-tall Terminator-like robot… Don’t worry, they say they’re only for peaceful purposes

By Kit Eaton

Boston Dynamics has been busy working on an entrant for DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge, a contest aimed to create robots that can help in disaster situations. Of course, they could also be used by the military…

Now, Boston Dynamics has revealed its entrant: A 6-foot-tall humanoid robot called Atlas. Compared to the bumbling, tottering, and slow humanoid robots that have hit the media before, you may be shocked at how resilient Atlas is. The machine has sophistication that approaches the stuff of science fiction. It can cope with unexpected trip hazards, survive being knocked off balance by a 20-pound weight, and if the tricks of its developmental predecessor, Petman, are anything to go by, it can climb over obstacles and autonomously navigate to a certain degree.

We saw Boston Dynamics’ Petman prototype some while ago, behaving merely as a pair of self-balancing legs that were designed to emulate real human walking gait so they could act as a repeating “wearing-out” test bed for equipment designed for people. Check these lovely legs out:

And then look at this image. It’s what BD now plans to turn Petman into–a full humanoid robot. Given BD’s military-research ties, and cash injections from DARPA, it’s impossible to ignore how its plans to skin the metallic Petman droid in a plastic casing remind us of the famous rubber-clad “skinjobs” from James Cameron’s imagination. Judgment Day, anyone?

Give it a few years though and a robot like Atlas may be pulling survivors from tumbled buildings in post-earthquake scenarios. And possibly terrifying the crap out of enemy soldiers on the battlefield.

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