Video: DARPA unveil ATLAS, 'one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built'

New bot is being tested out as a possible first-responder in disaster situations

Designed for a contest organised by the US Defense Department and described as “one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built”, ATLAS is the latest creation from robotics pioneers Boston Dynamics.

Standing tall at six-foot-two and weighing over 23 stone (330lb), Atlas seeks to replicate the articulation of human joints through its 28 hydraulically actuated joints.

A new video of the robot release by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) shows Atlas walking on a treadmill and avoiding small obstacles, as well as balancing on one leg whilst being hit with weights, Gladiators style.

ATLAS is the latest offering from Boston Dynamics who have previously released videos of other robot creations including Big Dog, a quadrupedal bot designed to operate as a pack mule for the US infantry; and Cheetah Robot, another quadruped capable of running faster than Usain Bolt at speeds of 28.3mph.

Atlas however, will be competing in DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge – a public competition with a $2 million grand prize launched in October last year. The contest’s aim is to explore how robots might be used as first responders in disaster situations:

“In the early stages of a number of recent disasters, it was clear that there were limitations to what humans could accomplish due to dangerous situations (e.g., Fukushima). Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) is one of the primary missions of the Department of Defense, and in order to be prepared for future disasters, DARPA’s goal is to spur the development of an adaptable robot that can remove humans from dangerous areas to allow issues to be mitigated from a safe location.”

The seven teams that have made it through to the end-stage of this competition will now be offered Atlas as the test bot for their software algorithms. As DARPA say on their website: “Like coaches starting with a novice player, the teams now have until late December 2013 to teach ATLAS the moves it will need to succeed.”

Although we'll have to wait until the end of the year to see what the teams come up with, ATLAS's early moves and development can be seen in this video below: