What if this ATLAS shrugged? — DARPA unveils new humanoid robot

July 12, 2013

Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching today:


The front (left image) and back of ATLAS, a roughly 300-pound humanoid robot revealed by DARPA on July 11, 2013. (Credit: DARPA)

1) The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled ATLAS Thursday, a humanoid robot created to assist in emergency situations. The robot weighs around 300 pounds, is six-feet-two-inches tall and an evolutionary step up from PETMAN, which, like ATLAS, was built by Boston Dynamics. ATLAS is at the center of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), which is focused on the development of robots able to operate in hazard zones.

ATLAS comes complete with two arms, two legs and a head along with 28 hydraulically actuated joints and two sets of hands. The hands were developed independently — one hand was developed by Sandia National Labs, and the other by iRobot. ATLAS also comes with an on-board real-time computer.

In June, DARPA held the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC), which called on qualified teams to control a robot in a virtual environment. DARPA offered a tour of the VRC challenge in a video:

Seven teams have been allowed to “train” with ATLAS to make sure that the robot is able to perform all of the required tasks that would qualify it for real-world hazard situations. The teams will be charged with incorporating software — or “brains and nerves” as DARPA put it in a release — into ATLAS’s “shell”.

Six other teams, which include groups from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Johnson Space Center as well as Virginia Tech, Drexel, Carnegie Mellon and SCHAFT Inc., have been given the green light to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. That’s one step away from the finals, the winner of which will receive $2 million. The finals will be held in December 2014. These six teams received an initial contract and funding from DARPA from the start to develop hardware and software during the DRC.

The futuristic video featuring ATLAS is complete with techno jams and shows of robotic agility and strength. If you are terrified that the Terminator will soon be upon us, this video will come as no comfort.

2) Raising money for start-ups just got easier. The SEC has approved new rules that stand to improve the systems and speed around start-up fundraising. (via Wired)

3) Google’s Alfred, the local recommendations engine, is going the way of Google Reader — as in shutdown. (via VentureBeat)

4) On Fast Company, Kit Eaton has a “leadership smackdown” between two Steves, the late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The matchup comes in the wake of Ballmer sending a memo Thursday outlining restructuring plans for the company.

5) And here’s Tom Thum at TEDx Sidney 2013 using his “mouth in strange ways in exchange for cash.” Don’t get any ideas. He’s a human beat box.

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Dominic Basulto · July 11, 2013