Atlas, the hero of the video, is the latest generation, very advanced, humanoid robot designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings.  He is about 5’ 9” tall and weighs 180 lbs. (around 81 kgs).  As you’ll see in the video, Atlas has incredible capability to balance itself across different types of terrain (indoor hard surface) as well as outdoors, in snow.  Amazingly Atlas can also recover from a fall!   Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before versions of Atlas will retaliate against its “human aggressors”. How far are we really from realizing a “Terminator” like machine?  As per Boston Dynamics, the creators of Atlas, it uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo systems in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain and avoid obstacles. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated.

Boston Dynamics is a Google portfolio company, which was acquired in December 2013.  In the company’s own words: “Boston Dynamics builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed. We use sensor-based controls and computation to unlock the capabilities of complex mechanisms. Our world-class development teams take projects from initial concept to proof-of-principle prototyping to build-test-build engineering, to field testing and low-rate production”.

Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert who was a researcher at MIT, then.  Marc and his team initially developed robots that were quadrupeds, like animals. All the initial funding for the company came from military sources, including the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).   So let us see what plans google has for ATLAS.  Note that Boston Dynamics is not the only company in Google’s portfolio (there are several others).  [I will update on this in future posts]

So what are the real world applications for ATLAS ?

  • MILITARY: Neutralize Landmines, Territory survey (but drones are better here) , Carry loads in war zones or difficult territory like the Sicahen glacier in India.
  • Industrial:  Carry loads again, all possible mechanical jobs on an assembly line?
  • Home:  Be my house help 😉  Vacuum the floor, clean windows and doors, do the dishes and clean my car
What else can we think of ?
Throw in your views on how you like ATLAS and what is the real market for these innovations. I think we are not very far from Isaac Asimov’s vision of the future!