At 6’2” and 330 pounds, Atlas is one strong humanoid – built that way by Boston Dynamics, an advanced robotics firm, for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Atlas’s mobility, dexterity, and speed, however, are its truly impressive features: With 28 hydraulically actuated joints, two arms, two legs, a torso, and an articulated sensor head, Atlas can move in an extensive range of remarkably human-like ways.
“Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces,” according to Boston Dynamics.
Well, humans can do all those things, too, you might be thinking. But wait:
- Do you have a thermal management system that allows you to withstand extreme temperatures?
- Does your vision include LIDAR and stereo sensors?
- Do you have an inertial sensor providing precision position data?
Atlas is one of several humanoid robots being developed as part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a competition launched in 2012 that is designed to provide funding and guidance for robotics research in both hardware and software.
“The goal of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is to generate groundbreaking research and development so that future robotics can perform the most hazardous activities in future disaster response operations, in tandem with their human counterparts, in order to reduce casualties, avoid further destruction, and save lives,” according to DARPA.
Among the people most anxious to meet Atlas when it was introduced earlier this summer were the teams of software engineers who will now begin programming the robot in preparation for the DARPA Robotics Trials, December 20-21, 2013. During the trials, each robot will be tested on a number of disaster-response tasks. Human operators will use control units to guide the robots’ actions.
The trials will be held at Homestead Speedway in Florida, and will be open to the public. In December 2014, the final phase of the trials is expected to be held.