Atlas bot cuts the strings to become a real robot boy

21 Jan 2015

The Atlas robot. Image via DARPA

Atlas, the robot developed by the US military’s research division DARPA, will soon be freed from his wires to be able to roam prior to the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) finals.

With Boston Dynamics recently showcasing Ian the karate robot, DARPA has now given one of its own bipedal bots, Atlas, a significant upgrade that will allow him to be removed from his constricting wires thanks to a hefty 3.7kWh battery pack.

With this new addition, Atlas will be able to walk, stand and use tools, as well as carry out a host of other functions.

Future Human

In total, Atlas may as well be an entirely new robot, given that 75pc of its components that came with its recent upgrade are entirely new in order to meet the tough requirements for the DRC finals. The event will see US$2m awarded to the overall winner(s) when the competition is held in early June.

While DARPA’s own machinery will be competing in the competition, a number of other competitors are due to take part from countries in the European Union (EU), Japan and South Korea.

Much of the work undertaken by the team led by Gill Pratt, programme manager for the DRC, has improved Atlas’ ability to interact with the world and in essence, make it closer to a robot that could imitate human interaction with objects with the help of extra space being created for its wrists.

Its brain – or in this case brains – has also been given a substantial upgrade with the help of three on-board perception computers that are to be used for perception and task planning.

Sadly for Atlas however, the strings won’t be removed just yet, just in case he happens to get ahead of himself and fall over between now and June … or at least that’s the official answer.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic