Right on schedule for development of the Terminator
July 12, 2013 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Meet Atlas, a humanoid robot that can run, climb stairs, and walk through rubble.

But it has to trail an extension cord behind it for power. If they ever find a reasonable portable power source for it, we're all in serious trouble.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (88 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not to mention beating us at air hockey.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, but can it shrug?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Warning: loud music that adds nothing to the video.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is something very unsettling about watching that.

Then again, I watch too many SF movies.

But very cool overall. The idea of of this technology helping people who have lost limbs is encouraging.
posted by lampshade at 11:39 AM on July 12, 2013


Nice industrial dance moves at the end.
posted by smidgen at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, who needs a Terminator?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:43 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, mandroids. First they're struggling to walk, then they're lobbing cinderblocks at you. *sigh*
posted by boo_radley at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slap some glowsticks on that dude!

I'm finding this oodles less creepy than Bigdog. A win all around.
posted by Mizu at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder what it could do if it didn't have the limitations of being humanoid...
posted by Chuffy at 11:50 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm constantly amazed by how instinctively I feel sympathy for anything remotely human-shaped. (And sometimes not even.)

How about I hit *you* with a 20 lb kettlebell, asshole?
posted by eugenen at 11:55 AM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm glad they made Atlas because he seems friendlier than P-body.
posted by DU at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder what it could do if it didn't have the limitations of being humanoid...

Once all the humans are dead, the 'oid part won't matter.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It looks more like the robot from Saturn 3.
posted by cazoo at 12:02 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


So Terminator is a documentary? The US will be using these to eliminate competing foreign nations, in the same indiscriminate manner it uses drones. Fifty civilian deaths for each legitimate guerilla fighter (read: "terrorist", though they're fighting in their own country against a foreign occupier).
posted by five fresh fish at 12:04 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with the "not creepy" assessment of Atlas. I think it might have something to do with the fact that they designed him to look like what I imagine a robot should look like, rather than some dog-like hell creature or headless humanoid nightmare.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


So how many of these will there be on the borders?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2013


The US will be using these to eliminate competing foreign nations, in the same indiscriminate manner it uses drones.

Then it's a good thing foreigners don't have RPGs that could destroy these immediately.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it, when I watch Atlas walking, I keep hearing this:

Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother,
You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin',
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive.

posted by SPrintF at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Then it's a good thing foreigners don't have RPGs that could destroy these immediately.

Or .50 cal rounds. Or .308 rounds. Or .243 rounds. Or .223 rounds. I'm rather sure they are not built of 3/8 inch plate steel nor are they able to stay standing when 1400+ foot pounds of force are delivered as an impulse.

I'm betting even the old Ma Bell .22 cal equipment resistance standard would make Atlas too bulky to move.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Worst porno ever!
posted by cjorgensen at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2013


Me too, SPrintF. My first thought was, "you didn't say he could strut!"
posted by Navelgazer at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dance music was being played by the robot. Boston Dynamics is a subsidiary of Boston Acoustics, so it only makes sense for Atlas to have a kick-ass sound system. The power cord is necessary for the powerful class A amplifier. I believe the non-dancing version will be cordless.
posted by orme at 12:17 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


In 2023, it will win Sasuke.
posted by Akeem at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My first thought was, "you didn't say he could strut!"

And, once weaponized, he'll be able to shrug.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh good, it can walk on rubble. This doesn't at all immediately make me think about how our cities will all be reduced to rubble during Robot War I. No sir.
posted by glhaynes at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


It kinda looks like Hector from Saturn 3, possibly the only movie with Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel, and Farrah Fawcett.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:29 PM on July 12, 2013


At last! No more unethical treatment of the elephants!
posted by yoink at 12:29 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, even if you put a little wooden plank in front of its feet.
posted by glhaynes at 12:30 PM on July 12, 2013 [31 favorites]


Oh good, it can walk on rubble. This doesn't at all immediately make me think about how our cities will all be reduced to rubble during Robot War I. No sir.

Actually, the cities will be left mostly intact, so the only "rubble" the robots need to negotiate will be the piles of human skulls.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


In case you'd like to see the youtube video with the options to forward to an arbitrary time, which the post's link doesn't allow me to do http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zkBnFPBV3f0
posted by mulligan at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can I see a version wearing Harvey Keitel's head?
posted by panboi at 12:38 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something like this could be deployed on the streets to keep protesters...um...safe. Yeah, that's it, safe.
posted by sourwookie at 12:38 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Looks impressive - I suppose America had to finally come up with some kind of reply to Asimo, however late. But typically these videos and events are staged and scripted to conceal terrible, unsurmounted weaknesses (and that goes for Japanese robots too).

So when we see some feats performed on a treadmill with head and arms removed we're probably allowed to take it that they can't be reproduced in natural environments or with the head or arms attached.
posted by Segundus at 12:40 PM on July 12, 2013


The only question remaining is which Duke boy you prefer.
posted by emmtee at 12:48 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Impressive and terrifying.
posted by rtha at 12:49 PM on July 12, 2013


If you manage to knock it down, can it get back up? Unlike the ED 209...
posted by Chuffy at 12:53 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do people always assume robots are into techno music? I want a robot that likes New Orleans brass band.
posted by brundlefly at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I mean, these guys have got the strut for it.
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wasn't Boston Dynamics's dog robot gas powered? I imagine that a good generator could help with the wireless needs...
posted by disillusioned at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2013


Gah, just typed a long comment that belongs in another thread.

Damned snarkodyne2000; I should never have given it access to my Mefi account.
posted by yoink at 1:00 PM on July 12, 2013


Ah, mandroids

Thank you! I now have a new name for the denizens of West Hollywood.
posted by mykescipark at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alone, at night, trapped in the darkness of the laboratory and its own powercord tether, it cries tears of hydraulic fluid.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:07 PM on July 12, 2013


Atlas looks pretty much identical to this design for Marvel Comics supervillain Arnim Zola. A comparison.
posted by martinrebas at 1:14 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes very interesting, but what the heck does DARPA plan on doing with it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but they are still a part of the military.

No fear mongering here, just some minor concern for this type of robot being used in military applications.
posted by PipRuss at 1:14 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


But typically these videos and events are staged and scripted to conceal terrible, unsurmounted weaknesses (and that goes for Japanese robots too).

Really, the big weakness is the tether. But it was nice to see that some of the features in this version are about putting necessary requirements on the actual robot, like an on-board control computer and on-board hydraulic pump.

Yes very interesting, but what the heck does DARPA plan on doing with it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but they are still a part of the military.

Same thing as the military does with drones. Do stuff where people would be in harm's way.
posted by smackfu at 1:24 PM on July 12, 2013


You have to hand it to the marketing folk at Warner Bros. (and Fast Co.), they're doing a bang-up job at promoting Pacific Rim.
posted by wensink at 1:24 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Then it's a good thing foreigners don't have RPGs that could destroy these immediately.

Or .50 cal rounds. Or .308 rounds. Or .243 rounds. Or .223 rounds. I'm rather sure they are not built of 3/8 inch plate steel nor are they able to stay standing when 1400+ foot pounds of force are delivered as an impulse.


It certainly won't have counter measures, no. Twenty years from now, this war machine company will be sending it in without any anti-RPG tech. Its small reactor won't be powering an anti-ballistic laser. Technology won't have advanced, and it will be still be impossible to localize a gunshot, detect the bullet, and vaporize it and the human sniper.

I'm pretty sure the end goal for this technology is automated flower arranging. It's not going to be a soldier, no. It will never be used to kill humans.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:37 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Same thing as the military does with drones. Do stuff where people would be in harm's way. to harm humans.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2013


I'm confident that Atlas was created to help´╗┐ mankind! Not destroy it!
posted by martinrebas at 1:43 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


+1 for casemod lighting.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:52 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


lampshade: "There is something very unsettling about watching that.

Then again, I watch too many SF movies.

But very cool overall. The idea of of this technology helping people who have lost limbs is encouraging.
"

Or those of us with malfunctioning limbs. I would wear exoleg armor just to be able to jog...
posted by Samizdata at 2:18 PM on July 12, 2013


cazoo: "It looks more like the robot from Saturn 3."

Yeah, well, I was going to comment about what would happen when I came home and found my (non-existant) partner sexing it up with our metal friend, then decided against, then saw that comment, so I went back to throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.
posted by Samizdata at 2:22 PM on July 12, 2013


Why humanoid?

Seems like more legs would be faster and more stable, though perhaps this thing's arms are long enough that it could do that ape-like knuckle-walk. And if it's really for saving people in collapsing buildings, then it should be shaped (or be capable of shaping itself into) a walking stretcher.

I suspect it's humanoid because that'll look badass once they strap a missile launcher on its back.

Maybe I read too much science fiction, but my vision of the coming robot apocalypse (or nirvana, hey, it could happen) involves more skittering and less lumbering.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


martinrebas: "Atlas looks pretty much identical to this design for Marvel Comics supervillain Arnim Zola. A comparison."

Well that doesn't look like Toby Jones at all.
posted by brundlefly at 2:39 PM on July 12, 2013


Why humanoid?

Came here to ask this. Does anyone have literature on the advantages - physical or psychological - for humanoid robots? I can think of a few, but none of them are particularly compelling.

On top of that, there's another weird problem with them, which I ran into when I was working on a story-game that I never finished, because I couldn't solve said problem. Which is!

When you are building humanoid robots, you are building a slave race.

I know that sounds kind of loaded, but I'm not sure how else to say it.

You build these machines to interact like us - and, presumably, eventually to look/sound like us, because why wouldn't you? someone's going to, just to see if they can - but don't give them any kind of sentience. But we're going to treat them like people. We already do! People name their Roomabs. People name their rocks. It is part of human nature. So you've got these machines that are kind-of like people except they aren't really, and you make them do all the shit jobs - which is fine, because they are shit jobs, and if a conscious entity doesn't have to do them, that is GREAT - and the robots aren't going to care, because they won't be able to, but what will it be doing to us and our psyches?

I dunno. It's troubling.
posted by curious nu at 2:48 PM on July 12, 2013


a) DARPA sure does sound like an acronym that would accidentally be responsible for the robopocolypse.

b) If Atlas ever does achieve sentience, I would NOT want to be the guy who was trying to trip him with wood on the treadmill.

c) An evil robot that can be defeated by unplugging him from the wall seems like the perfect villain for an Asylum Films production.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:50 PM on July 12, 2013


6 feet 2 inches tall and 330 pounds? I'm 6'1" and 310 (and dropping). THIS ROBOT HAS A WORSE BMI THAN I DO!
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, it does have abs of steel....

Ouch! Hey! OK, I'll stop!!
posted by drhydro at 2:58 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems like more legs would be faster and more stable

Imagine how horrifyingly creepy it would be with dozens of centipede legs, skittering smoothly across the terrain. It wouldn't need any weapons, because everyone would just nope the fuck outta the area.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:03 PM on July 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


When you are building humanoid robots, you are building a slave race.

Why not take it a step further. The Bible talks about how its OK to take slaves/make slaves/sell people into slavery. But when man is MAKING the slaves, does that not move man into a God context? Throw that out there and whatever you thought was disturbing will just be passed over with your God-claiming slight of hand ya just pulled.

THIS ROBOT HAS A WORSE BMI THAN I DO!

Made of different material. And Atlas has roll cages.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:14 PM on July 12, 2013


When you are building humanoid robots, you are building a slave race.


Well only if they're sentinent beings, right? The fact that they're shaped like humans doesn't make them into a 'race'.
posted by modernnomad at 3:21 PM on July 12, 2013


Well that doesn't look like Toby Jones at all.

Apparently he might show up in classic Robot Zola form in the sequel.
posted by martinrebas at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's all fun and games till one of those bouncing your head off the sidewalk for protesting the decrease in next month's protein allotment.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you are building humanoid robots, you are building a slave race.

Meh. That seems to me a question that has far more to do with the AI than the physical form.

And, in the end, the philosophical question of "is this machine a person" seems like one that in practice is much less difficult than it is in theory. If a machine walks up to you and starts arguing, plausibly and coherently and consistently, that it has an independent consciousness and deserves as much freedom as we do then, yeah, it kinda does. If you've successfully programmed it never to pose that question to itself, never to get bored doing the same tasks over and over and over etc. etc. then you haven't made it into a sentient being and, consequently, the "OMG, slaves!" question doesn't arise any more interestingly than it does with a modern-day coffee-maker; which is, essentially, a robot you have programmed to do one very boring task over and over and over again for all eternity (or until you chuck it in the recycling).

In other words, if we end up making "people" then they'll let us know about it.
posted by yoink at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems like more legs would be faster and more stable,

They're working on that, too. (Same development group.)

I think the idea is that a two-legged robot might be able to fit into places a four-legged one couldn't.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:45 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


65 comments and someone mentioned Stayin' Alive but no-one's linked to the PETMAN robot strut (Stayin' Alive) video? For shame, Mefi - we deserve the robots to take over.
posted by adrianhon at 3:48 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


What the hell?! I made that exact joke with YouTube Doubler once! *crosses arms brattily*
posted by brundlefly at 3:50 PM on July 12, 2013


I think the idea is that a two-legged robot might be able to fit into places a four-legged one couldn't.

Like a pair of pants.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why humanoid?

Because they're designed to operate in the human world. In particular, Atlas is being used as a platform for a contest designed to mimic dangerous emergency situations. Things like the Fukushima disaster.

(on a related note, I'd wish the reaction to this would be less knee-jerk "OMG TYRANT ROBOT!!!!" and more of a consideration of the potential use and mis-use of the tech. DARPA also funded early Internet research, and had a huge role in spurring autonomous vehicle development. The "D" in the name shouldn't completely invalidate the "R").
posted by graphnerd at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because they're designed to operate in the human world.

Yeah, but so are dogs, cars, and bulldozers. I'm just not seeing "humanoid" as maximally efficient robot design.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:14 PM on July 12, 2013


(on a related note, I'd wish the reaction to this would be less knee-jerk "OMG TYRANT ROBOT!!!!" and more of a consideration of the potential use and mis-use of the tech....

I, for one, welcome our new robotic dash-into-burning-building -ers.
posted by Chutzler at 4:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but so are dogs, cars, and bulldozers. I'm just not seeing "humanoid" as maximally efficient robot design.

Humans can negotiate a pretty remarkable range of terrain/obstacles. If you stop to ask yourself "what animal could easily accompany a human without any external aid in all the locomotive tasks a human is capable of performing" you pretty quickly narrow yourself down to birds. I'm not sure the "2 legs good / 4 legs better" theory is necessarily valid.
posted by yoink at 4:30 PM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, but so are dogs, cars, and bulldozers. I'm just not seeing "humanoid" as maximally efficient robot design.

Yeah, that's a good point. Maybe it's more accurate to say that they're designed specifically to use human interfaces and spaces.

It might not be the most mechanically efficient design for some tasks, but it makes sense for running into a burning building, climbing stairs, and rescuing occupants, for example. An alternative form factor might work better for climbing the stairs, but be the wrong height for opening doors. Another might be optimized for carrying people, but be too large for an elevator. And so on...
posted by graphnerd at 5:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Buildings, cities, subway stations, cars, are all designed around human capabilities. A humanoid robot is probably the best choice to navigate man-made structures.
posted by scose at 5:43 PM on July 12, 2013


I can certainly understand why people are concerned about the military applications here. It's time we started thinking about some set of laws these things could operate under to keep from hurting people. Nothing too complex -- three or four of them should do it.
posted by webmutant at 6:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Atlas is being used for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. One of the tasks in the challenge is to get the robot to sit down in a golf cart and drive it. Some of the other tasks include clearing a door blocked by debris, and climbing a ladder. Full task descriptions [pdf].

It's crazy to me that they're doing this challenge this year. Robots, driving cars and hooking up firehoses semi-autonomously, right now! I know some of the guys on one of the teams, they don't seem to believe it either.
posted by breath at 7:06 PM on July 12, 2013


THIS ROBOT HAS A WORSE BMI THAN I DO!

Made of different material. And Atlas has roll cages.


You haven't seen me roll....
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:11 PM on July 12, 2013


HAHA suckers. My Old Glory Robot Insurance is all paid up through 2020!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes very interesting, but what the heck does DARPA plan on doing with it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but they are still a part of the military.

No fear mongering here, just some minor concern for this type of robot being used in military applications.


As far as that goes, you may equally fret that when DARPA funds development of a tank, that it too has potential for military applications.
posted by dhartung at 1:05 AM on July 13, 2013


"Lay down some stripey wood!"
"It...it's not working, sir!"
"Whaddya mean, it's not working?"
"It stepped sideways!"
"...God help us, son."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:13 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


But it has to trail an extension cord behind it for power.

That never stopped the EVA units in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
posted by panboi at 6:00 AM on July 13, 2013


That never stopped the EVA units in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Try telling that to Asuka. Oh wait, you can't because she got killed when her power ran out, and then everybody else melted into a puddle of primordial goo, and I'm still a little confused about what happened next.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:28 AM on July 13, 2013


Then it's a good thing foreigners don't have RPGs that could destroy these immediately.

Dude, Kerensky isn't due back with the Clans for quite a while.

I'm not sure the "2 legs good / 4 legs better" theory is necessarily valid.

It seems like ultimately you'd want a robot that could shift (transform?!) between bipedal PETMAN/Atlas robostrut and the Bigdog cthulutrot as needed. It makes sense that they would be developed separately. Maybe eventually they'll also strap a drone engine and collapsible winglets on its back.

I mean, why not? The diamondback kit might be adaptable.

PETMAN robot strut (Stayin' Alive) video

re comments: WTF Gabe Newell.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:19 AM on July 13, 2013




I saw running but no stair climbing or walking through rubble in the video. But there were plenty of arm moves and loud music. It's great that it can handle a plank of wood in its path, but on the whole I feel like I just watched a Gob magic act.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2013


Yeah, I'm a little curious what would happen if they were to lay the plank on the perpendicular.

And also, does it read it as a 3D obstacle, or does it just gingerly tiptoe around every line on the floor?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:05 AM on July 13, 2013


"Near-human Anthropometry"

As ever, Aim For The Head.
(until the Zola-ists take over. Thanks again Marvel.)
posted by djrock3k at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2013


the advantages - physical or psychological - for humanoid robots

It's actually a pretty decent body plan, though Atlas has some catching up to do before it can do this on a handful of Weetbix.
posted by flabdablet at 5:13 AM on July 14, 2013


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