The Robot Atlas by Boston Dynamics to the next Level

Now! What!! Atlas is become more and more powerful., and learning.

Boston Dynamics has just posted an incredible video showcasing a massively upgraded version of the ATLAS robot that they initially developed for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. While BD calls this the “next generation” of ATLAS, it looks like such an enormous technological leap forward that it’s more like a completely different species.

A few quick notes:

  • At 5’9” (1.75 m) and 180 lbs (82 kg), the new ATLAS is much shorter and lighter than the previous model, which was 6’2” (1.9 m) and 345 lbs (156 kg). See family photo above for comparison.
  • It looks like BD decided that electric motors aren’t yet up to the task of getting a 180-pound robot to walk around, so they stuck with the more complicated (and generally messier) hydraulic system. Other legged robots do this too, and it seems like a reasonable compromise between the quiet efficiency of electricity and the power of hydraulics.

When Boston Dynamics unveiled their Atlas robot, it instantly spawned references to Skynet, Terminator, and the stuff of nightmares.

It was actually designed for search and rescue operations and even the DOD (Department of Defense) has stated it has no plans on using the robot in combat, even though it can withstand being hit by a projectile. (I hope So..)

As time passed, so did the sci-fi rhetoric and the DARPA-funded Atlas has since been overhauled from its original form by 75% for their upcoming Robotics Challenge. The updated version does away with the tethered power supply and sports a new 3.7kWh Li-ion battery pack, which can power the robot for an hour before needing to be recharged.

Boston Dynamics also outfitted the Atlas with a variable-pressure pump, enabling it to move without using as much energy as its predecessor. The robot features hydraulic-powered limbs for movement with the arms repositioned from the shoulders to the torso, which give it more strength and dexterity.

More noticeable is the slimmer physique with chest and leg coverings that Boston Dynamics says will allow it to squeeze into tight-fit spaces, much like its human counterpart.

The redesign is due in part to DARPA’s Robotics Challenge finals, being held last June ’17, which pits various robots and software teams against each other in an effort to produce the best platform capable of assisting humans. One part of the contest involves robots opening a vehicle’s door, getting in, and then driving it—pretty sophisticated if you think about it.

The winning team will receive a cool $2-million in prize money with the runners up receiving $1-million and third place receiving $500,000. With that amount of money involved, it’s easy to see why the Atlas has gained celebrity status.

So what you think guys..?