A recently released video by Boston Dynamics showcases their upgraded Atlas robot. Just as the name on the video suggests, the robot heralds a new generation of robots that represent a technological advancement in features and capabilities of the humanoid robot.
According to Boston Dynamic, the robot was a project aimed for the DARPA Robotic Challenge. It represents advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence. Notable features of the robot that are both shorter in height and lighter in weight compared to its predecessor include:
- The Atlas robot measures 5’9” (1.75 m) in height and weighs in at 180 lbs (82 kg).
- The robot is electrically powered and remains wireless. Its limbs are hydraulically actuated which is a reasonable compromise in efficiency and noise levels.
- It makes use of sensors embedded in its body and legs to achieve balance, uses LIDAR and stereo sensors for navigation, to assess terrain and to steer away from obstacles.
- The video shows the robot taking a walk outdoors in the snow just like a human being would do. It makes for astounding viewing to see the dynamic balancing act of the biped robot that marches through the treacherous snowy conditions.
Bipedal walking is the product of numerous years of evolution and has been perfected by human beings. It is a delicate act of balancing on two limbs. The fact that the Atlas robot can walk and overcome the challenge provided by ground giving in beneath its feet in itself sets the bar very high in the field of robotics.
- The Atlas robot is thought to be autonomous owing to the LIDAR technology. However, the video cannot reveal if the LIDAR is working when the robot is outdoors or if the robot, when lifting and stacking boxes, is autonomous or controlled.
- Notably, the robot can tumble over and get up again on its own. It is a testament to the robustness of the robot which will not die after falling over.
Additionally, the agility of the robot is commendable. From the video, the robot is seen tussling with a Boston Dynamics employee and maintaining its upright stature quite easily.
All these advancements in the Atlas next generation robot represent the fast pace of technological developments in the robotics field. Not only are the mechanics improving vastly, but we can now see the incorporation of artificial intelligence.
These developments will only spur on a big debate on the ethical framework to regulate and govern the development of these intelligent humanoid robots. Human beings have remained wary of advancements in robotic fearing for their jobs especially rather simple jobs. However, the robotic landscape promises exciting releases and technologies shortly.