Atlas Survives the Wrecking Ball

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[Boston Dynamics] has been just full of videos over the last few days. They’ve dropped updates on Atlas and LS3 in addition to the WildCat update we already featured.

This video shows updates to the Atlas robot. This is to be a simplified version of the atlas, as compared to the robots sent off to competitors in the DARPA robotics challenge. Arms have been replaced with weights. It appears that this update focuses on Atlas’ balancing and handling on rough terrain. Atlas walks gingerly, over some crushed cinder blocks – possibly the same ones we saw BigDog throwing around recently. There are a few tense moments, but Atlas manages to get through unscathed.

The real scary part (for us) is watching Atlas get hit with a weighted ball. We’re assuming the 20 on the ball indicates pounds. Imagine getting hit from the side with a 20lb swinging weight. Would you be able to stand up? Did we mention Atlas did this all while standing on one foot? Atlas takes it in stride though – waving its arms to maintain balance in a very human manner.  Notable is the balance system. Atlas never lifts its foot off the ground. This is slightly different from the bouncing/hopping system of balance we’ve come to know and love in [Boston Dynamics’] other robots.  [Read more...]

Boston Dynamics Takes WildCat Outside

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[Boston Dynamics] has released a video of their latest robot, which means it’s time to go hide in bed before this thing comes to get us. The new video features WildCat, which is apparently the evolution of the Cheetah robot we saw last year. Cheetah was an indoor cat, tethered by power, data, and hydraulic lines while running on a treadmill. WildCat has been released to terrorize people explore the great outdoors

Reminiscent of the early videos of BigDog, WildCat is currently powered by an internal combustion engine. The engine drives a hydraulic system, which then actuates the robot’s legs and front/rear pods. The beauty of a system like this is that switching to an electric motor is simple – just replace the IC engine. While we’re sure this would make a much more stealthy cat, weight and run time could be issues. Moving the power system onboard has also slowed down WildCat a bit. Cheetah was able to reach 28 MPH while WildCat can only muster 16 MPH.

WildCat is part of DARPA’s maximum mobility and manipulation program. The research appears to be focused on improving the gaits the robot uses to move at various speeds. The video highlights both bounding and galloping.  Slo-mo sections show all four of WildCat’s legs leaving the ground, which is the suspension phase of a classic gallop gait. Control isn’t perfect yet, as WildCat tumbles at one point in the video.  It gets right back up though – ready for more.

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Atlas humanoid robot standing on his own

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Boston Dynamics likes to show off… which is good because we like to see the scary looking robots they come up with. This is Atlas, it’s the culmination of their humanoid robotics research. As part of the unveiling video they include a development process montage which is quite enjoyable to view.

You should remember the feature in October which showed the Robot Ninja Warrior doing the Spider Climb. That was the prototype for Atlas. It was impressive then, but has come a long way since. Atlas is the object of affection for the Darpa Robotics Challenge which seeks to drop a humanoid robot into an environment designed for people and have it perform a gauntlet of tasks. Research teams participating in the challenge are tasked with teaching Atlas how to succeed. Development will happen on a virtual representation of the robot, but to win the challenge you have to succeed with the real deal at the end of the year.

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DARPA funded Robot Ninja Warrior?

Fans of the game show Ninja Warrior will immediately recognize the similarity of this test apparatus as the Spider Climb. Of course that’s not a human contestant, but a humanoid robot developed by Boston Dynamics. And it’s not actually clinging to the vertical walls as its only support. There are two narrow ledges to either side on which its feet gain purchase. Nonetheless this is some impressive work to keep itself upright and avoid slipping. Check out the video after the break to see how it does.

The sheer volume of amazing robot tech that this company spits out is remarkable. Just last month we saw the robotic cheetah which can run at almost 30 mph. We don’t expect to see either in the wild anytime soon, but especially this humanoid. you’ll notice the red rings positioned around the apparatus. We believe these are high-speed cameras set up to give the robot positional feedback and we’d wager it can’t perform without them. But that’s merely conjecture so judge for yourself.

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Cheetah robot can run down even the fastest of us

It’s a blur, but you really don’t want to seen this thing coming for you anyway. It’s the latest look at what the folks at Boston Dynamics have been working on under a DARPA contract. They call it the Cheetah robot as it’s the fastest four-legged bot ever developed. The clip after the break shows it breaking the world record over 100 meters… for a human. This isn’t really legitimate since the run is done on a treadmill and the robot is tethered. But it’s still impressive scary.

The Cheetah is a relative of BigDog, another Boston Dynamics robot which we’ve seen several times in the past. BigDog specializes in lifting heavy loads and traversing rough terrain. We don’t think it will be too long before both traits can be “bred” into one device. A lot of times when we feature these robots there are comments about how they invoke images from The Terminator movies. For us this is more along [Michael Bay's] vision of robots from the Transformers series. It certainly not small enough or fast enough to be seen as an early version of the Rat Thing.

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Sand Flea literally leaps tall buildings in a single bound

The hidden abilities of this robot that is no larger than a dinner plate are quite impressive. It doesn’t let an obstacle like a building get in its way. The Sand Flea, like its namesake, posses a remarkable jumping ability. When it encounters a tall obstruction two levers incline the front of the robot and it launches itself up to thirty feet in the air. In the case of a one-story build this means it will end up on the roof, and it’ll do so much quicker and more reliably than any wall climber we’ve seen.

It’s being developed for the US Army by Boston Dynamics, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the concept. But the video after the break gives a much better look than the grainy twenty-second clip from last year. Of course they’re not giving up too many details so we have to guess a bit. We’d wager the launching mechanism is a solenoid, but at about eleven pounds you need a lot of juice to get that much of a jump. We suppose it’s also possible that there’s an explosive system like the butane combustion used in a framing nailer. The video summary mentions that there’s a stabilization system to keep the body oriented during flight. That’s got to be a gyroscope. Let us know what you think in the comments. [Read more...]

New BigDog video doesn’t fail to impress

Those following the evolution of quadrupedal assist robots will recognize the specimen seen above as a relative of BigDog. This is AlphaDog, one of the latest prototypes in Boston Dynamics’ Legged Squadron Support Systems program. It’s designed to carry 400 pounds of payload, which explains the disc weights seen on either side of the torso. Like its diminutive sibling, LittleDog, it’s able to take on all kinds of terrain. Here it’s being tested with boxes full of rocks.

The robot is capable of picking itself up and getting under way again without intervention. The first video after the break shows test footage where the robot starts nearly upside-down and has no trouble righting itself again. When we looked in on a biped version back in 2009 we also linked to the BigDog prototype which showed developers trying to tip it over mid stride. This version has the same balance resiliency.

Also embedded after the break is a video showing the evolution of the design over about seven years of development.

[Read more...]

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