Atlas Walking Over Randomness
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 23 November 2013

Considering how long we have been trying to solve the problem, a robot walking is mostly amusing. Atlas is an impressive robot, evoking, the deepest fears of sci fi. Watch as one of the DARPA challenge teams makes Atlas walk, unaided, on randomness. 

The Atlas robot is a standard humanoid robot and is being used by competitors in the DARPA Robotics challenge. Built by Boston Dyamics, it is in the same line as Petman and BigDog. The idea behind the DARPA Robotics Challenge is to develop robotic technology for disaster response operations, looking to improve the performance of robots that operate in the rough terrain and austere conditions characteristic of disasters.

Not all of the teams are making use of the standard Atlas robot, they can build their own if they want, to but as we pointed out earlier, see DARPA'S Atlas Robot Needs A Brain, the main aim of the challenge  is to create the software. Some of the teams have released videos of how well their Atlas is coping, but to be honest none of them have seemed like a big step forward - impressive but not conclusive. 

Now take a look at this video of Atlas created by the Florida Institute For Human and Machine Cognition robotics team. It shows Atlas walking across a random collection of obstacles. Notice that even though it looks as if Atlas is supported by a tether, it isn't - as proved when it falls over at the end.

If you have been too impressed by bipedal robots like Asimo to consider this an achievement, then keep in mind that they tend to walk on perfect surfaces and even then they do it slowly.

 

 

 

It isn't perfect, but it is a step forward (pun intended).  If nothing more than a free walking robot comes out of the DARPA Challenge, it will still have been worthwhile.

 

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