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Boston Dynamics' Atlas Robot Tries To Balance On One Foot [Video]

12 September 2016, 8:54 pm EDT By Horia Ungureanu Tech Times
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Boston Dynamics showcased a video of its Atlas robot keeping its balance on a narrow piece of wood. The company’s research into human-like robots could bring us closer to seeing replicants, but the path is long and windy.  ( Boston Dynamics | YouTube )

Atlas is a humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain and Boston Dynamics recently showed that it can keep its balance on one foot.

The robot already showcased its talent in traversing rough terrain, as well as its endurance in scientifically supporting amounts of rough treatment (read: testing) from its creators. However, Boston Dynamics kept Atlas on a learning curve so that the robot now packs another trick up its hydraulic sleeve, in the form of balancing on one foot.

The scientists demonstrated the feat by making the robot balance on one foot while standing on a thin piece of plywood. The duration of the experiment is a bit under 30 seconds, but we don't know many humans who can stay in dynamic balance for that long.

It should be noted that the most impressive part of the video is not the extended time length that Atlas can spend balancing but the human-like move by which it regains its balance at the end of the video. In a split second the robot leans its weight to the side, rotates its upper body, and modifies its foot placement. And if that is not enough, it makes a sweet double-step to gain its' balance.

What is more, the robot only learned the subtleties of standing up a few months prior to the recent balancing test. This is even more impressive, as one of the main challenges seen in the global robotics competitions is that the androids keep falling over.

Boston Dynamics presents Atlas as a robot that can travel bipedally (read: on two legs), and that can lift, carry and manipulate the environment with his upper limbs. As previous tests demonstrated, Atlas has the ability to climb rough terrain using his hands and feet and even make his way through cluttered spaces.

The robotics company is working on equipping Atlas with hands able to utilize the same tools as humans. With 28 hydraulically actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet and a torso, Atlas emulates the human body in more than one way and can be useful in many scenarios, from military to healthcare.

But how does it keep its balance so well?

Thanks to the embedded LIDAR and stereo sensors, Atlas can analyze the environment around itself and keep a steady pace or pose. The robot is powered from an off-board, electric power supply via a flexible tether.

We're not sure if Atlas will be the grand-grand-father of replicants, but it's worth keeping an eye on it, just in case. Meanwhile, take a look at the video below to see the robot gracefully preparing for the next summer Olympics.

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