Google is one step closer to refining its own robot ninja. Thankfully, it's still several steps away from building its own robot army.
Google-owned robotics firm Boston Dynamics has released a video showing off one of its Atlas robots' new skills.
Ian, one of Google's massive robots, can perform complicated tasks such as traverse on uneven terrain, hold a fire hose and even get inside a car and drive it. Now, the 6-foot, 2-inch humanoid can perform a karate move -- and it's not just any old karate move. It's the classic crane kick made popular by high school senior Daniel Larusso in the 1984 film Karate Kid.
In the video, one can see Ian balancing on one leg atop a stack of concrete blocks while slowly raising his arms in the air, as in the movie's climactic scene where Daniel gets ready to throw the winning crane kick.
Unfortunately, Ian doesn't unleash any jump kicks in this video, and it won't be doing any jumping for a while. Boston Dynamics and the Florida-based Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, which programmed Ian to flawlessly perform the crane pose, still have a lot of work to do.
Nevertheless, doing the crane pose is no small feat for such a huge robot, or any robot for that matter. Many average human beings will also have a hard time keeping still while standing one-legged on a stack of blocks with arms up in the air without toppling over.
Ralph Macchio, who played Daniel, was only 120 pounds when he mastered the fictional karate move. Ian's massive 330-pound build makes it an extraordinary challenge just to balance on one foot, but that doesn't mean Boston Dynamics is not working on Ian's jumping techniques.
Few robots can actually jump. That includes Honda's latest model of ASIMO, a lightweight humanoid weighing 106 pounds that can jump a few inches in the air in different directions. JSK Labs of the University of Tokyo also has its own HRP3L-JSK, which can jump higher but still doesn't have the ability to land.
Ian's impressive new balancing act might just give him the first prize at this year's DARPA Robotics Challenge, where he won second place last year for exhibiting firefighting skills that may eventually be used to replace human disaster response workers in dangerous areas.
Ian is currently powered through an electric generator that connects to the robot via a cable, but Boston Dynamics says it will eventually be able to get rid of the need for a wired connection.
Ian's head is equipped with two cameras and a laser rangefinder that allows for depth perception needed for the robot to navigate its way through the physical world. It can turn its head to observe the environment with the help of its 28 movable joints, far less than the 360 joints found in the human body.