The 330lbs, 6ft 2in robot is in fact built by Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)-owned Boston Dynamics, and controlled by an algorithm written by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC).
“Atlas is a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. 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 the manufacturer.
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Atlas is currently powered by a separate electric power supply, attached by a flexible lead, but will soon be upgraded to be completely cordless, free to roam. The robot has 28 hydraulic joints, stereo cameras and a laser range finder. Scientists will soon adapt the arms of the robot so that they are stronger and more versatile.
The capabilities of Atlas are already pretty scary, with the ability to keep such a tall robot upright when moving particularly impressive. Unfortunately the robot cannot complete a full crane kick because jumping and landing are particularly hard tasks for upright robots.
The advanced robotics research carried out by Boston is largely funded by military sources such as Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), otherwise known as the ‘mad scientist’ section of the U.S. military.
DARPA not only provides funds, but holds competitions which bring together the latest in robotics technology. At the last edition of the DARPA Grand Challenge, Atlas finished in second place after showing that it could carry out the majority of tasks undertaken by first responders. This time around some experts have predicted that it could snatch first place.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) has just signed a 60-year lease on the NASA-owned Moffett Airfield base, where it will carry out research related to aviation, space exploration and robotics. Just how long will it be before we see a robot which can walk, jump and land like a human?