Petman, the Metal Gear Solid Inspired Robot, Tackles obstaclesHumanoid, walking robots are hard. So hard that there are only a few projects capable of more than a gentle gait. But Boston Dynamics seems to have an affinity for making walking machines. Their previous technological prototype, and the one that got them the Atlas contract, was the Bigdog, which, besides sounding like a chainsaw digesting a swarm of killer bees, was a major stop forward for walking robots.
Now, thanks to the DARPA, Boston Dynamics is making a full-fledged, two-legged walking robot. And it already has more mobility than just about any other walking robot ever made. Just take a look at this video:
That's Pet-Proto, one of the Petman robots that will be the precursor to the Atlas robot commissioned by the DARPA. In that video, the Pet-Proto manages to navigate over a high obstacle, cross a trench by walking along the edges, and climb some stairs. It does this with an ease that not even Sony's Aibo could boast, and looks far more natural than just about anything else we've seen.
The Atlas will be competing in a DARPA disaster response competition. The idea is that the robot will be capable of entering into areas where it is far too dangerous for humans to go, and do things that humans could not do. The challenge for the robots is to navigate not only through a human-made environment, which has its own list of challenges, but to operate in one that has seen serious amounts of degradation.
I, for one, can't wait to see the finished Terminator.