Pentagon’s Humanoid Robot Designed for DARPA Challenge Got a Big Update

Atlas 1 photo
Photo: DARPA
In case you thought only the Japanese are working at replacing humans with humanoid robots in their dangerous jobs, you’d better think again since we have them brainiacs in US as well. In fact there’s even a competition backed by the government which will end with this June’s finals, when a total of $3,5 million in prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers.
Before we talk about the metal fellow in question, let us introduce you first to a couple of details about the competition. Funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the competition started back in 2012 and aims to develop semi-autonomous ground robots that are capable of operating complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments.

It is to run for about 33 months in three competitions: a Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) that took place in June 2013 and two live hardware challenges, the DRC Trials in December 2013 and the Finals this summer. Six Boston Dynamics ATLAS robots were given to the teams that performed the best in the VRC.

The teams using the DARPA-developed Atlas robot got their first look at the newly upgraded system during a technical shakeout the week of January 12th in Waltham, Mass. The upgraded Atlas is 75 percent new - only the lower legs and feet were carried over from the original design. Lighter materials allowed for inclusion of a battery and a new pump system with only a modest increase in overall weight.

The 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) thing weighs 345 pounds (156.5 kilograms) and is now capable of carrying an onboard 3.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with the potential for one hour of “mixed mission” operation that includes walking, standing, use of tools and other movements.

According to DARPA, the seven DRC teams using Atlas are scheduled to receive their upgraded robots by the end of January. The way the teams will differentiate each other at the contest is through software, control interfaces and competition strategy.

PS: you can find further details on the robot on DARPA’s website.

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