Humans have a weird relationship to robots: We're not sure if we love or fear them. Whether you grew up with Rosie, the robot maid from The Jetsons, or the terrifying but stilted approach of the Terminator, chances are you've got a vivid picture in your head of what the world would be like if robots were in our everyday lives.
This week, the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (FIHMC) released a video of its newest family member at work: a humanoid robot that can clean, build and perform creepily human-like movements.
But the robot, named Atlas, can do more than clean up batteries (classic robots, spilling batteries, am I right?) and vacuuming. Atlas was also the lab's formal entry into the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA is the government agency which sponsors the challenge to stimulate innovative solutions to natural disasters, giving participating schools increasingly difficult challenges. According to FIHMC's website, it developed its robot's capabilities in the hope of not only meeting this challenge, but doing so with a humanoid machine, with the team focusing on the model's walking algorithm and its user interface with the human operator.
The challenge did not require that the machines be human-like (in fact, there are several good reasons why quadrupedal machines might have an advantage), but FIHMC says its "focus on humanoid robots is rooted in a simple concept: Because the robots will be working in environments built for humans, a human-like robot is best-suited to the challenges involved." For example, entering a nuclear power plant during a disaster, and shutting down machinery.
Seven of the 25 teams in the competiton used the upgraded Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics, with each team's software, user interface, and strategy distinguishing its model's abilities. Fifteen different commercial and custom physical robot forms got an outing at the DRC finals.
And how did the IHMC team's robot do? In the challenge, he came in second, bringing home a cool $1 million, probably to buy all his robot pals some oil cocktails.
Now the team's 6 foot, 2 inch, 345-pound Atlas model robot is back at home, and doing what all of us do after we neglect our personal lives for a big project: He's cleaning house.
Watch Atlas at work, below.