Watch these DARPA-funded robots run through their frightening paces

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 3:46pm
Chris Warner, Executive Editor

Boston Dynamics recently posted more video eye candy (but not necessarily ear candy) for those who can’t get enough of their amazing, creature-like robotics. The two new videos are its quadroped called the WildCat and the bipedal Atlas. The all-terrain Wildcat can run at 16 mph on a flat surface and can either gallop or “bound.” Atlas is intended to walk upright and keep its balance even on rough terrain. According to the company, the robot maintains its balance thanks to “inertial, kinematic and load data” from its sensors. As the video shows, Atlas isn’t budged by a swinging 20-lb weight.

Boston Dynamics receives funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and enters robots such as Atlas and Wildcat in its Robotics Challenge Program. If I were a Program judge, I would deduct points on Wildcat for the noise from its gas-powered engine. Actually, if I were a judge I don’t know how I’d judge against either of them – Wildcat could easily hunt me down, and Atlas is the stuff of nightmares. I’d give them both “participation ribbons,” resign and get the heck out of there.

One potential application for Atlas would be assistance in a nuclear disaster. Indeed, Atlas looks exactly like the type of machine I’d like to have in that situation in place of humans. As for Wildcat, some news reports suggest its potential applications will include assisting with emergency rescue, disaster recovery and military support. I’m not sure how something that resembles and functions like a charging bull can be helpful in rescue and recovery situations, so I’ll only agree that its best potential is military support.

You can check out video of Atlas walking the rocky road to the challenge here:


And here’s Wildcat doing what it does best: running wild.


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