In the first few months when Atlas was revealed, the robot carried two major flaws. One is about the noise that it creates and the other is the big support cable that keeps it powered and upright.
Such issues are no longer relevant as the humanoid robot now comes out more functional and more quiet than ever. According to DARPA, 75 percent of Atlas has been upgraded with only those parts that fall below the knees remain unchanged.
The new Atlas boasts of a shiny white chest plate that bears the Boston Dynamics logo. There's absolutely no trace of its insides that used to be exposed with wires. It had also successfully dropped its industrial-prototype appeal. The legs are carefully shaped to resemble real human thighs albeit covered with white plastic material.
Apart from the new pressure pump which gave the robot a more quiet way to move, other changes include repositioned arms to increase its range, wireless emergency stop that allows the operator to easily pull the plug when the robot gets threatened, and new actuators in the arms and legs to make it stronger than before.
The biggest upgrade comes from the robot's power source which is now provided by the attached battery to its rear as opposed to a tethered cable. This achievement will definitely allow it to have more freedom in its movement, something that could come in handy in the upcoming DARPA Robotics Challenge scheduled in June.
"Atlas will now carry an onboard 3.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, with the potential for one hour of mixed mission operation that includes walking, standing, use of tools, and other movements. This will drive a new variable-pressure pump that allows for more efficient operation," said DARPA.
All of these new capabilities are needed in order for the teams to successfully complete the tasks that are outlined in the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge. Scheduled to occur in Pomona, California, the contest will have 20 teams as finalists. Up for grabs are cash prizes that range from $2 million for the first place winner, $1 million for the second place, and $500,000 for the third place.
The finalists were picked from the 2013 Robotics Challenge trials. In the upcoming challenge, the teams should be able to communicate with their robot using a wireless network. Whatever happens to the robot, whether it gets stuck or falls over, the team is not allowed in any way to intervene. This new way of wirelessly communicating with the robot is just one of the hurdles they need to overcome now that the new Atlas has ditched the wires.