Thanks to software created by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), a research group based out of the Florida University system, the Atlas robot has achieved an impressive level of balance and coordination for a 6 ft-tall, 330-lb machine.
Created by Boston Dynamics, now a subsidiary of Google, Atlas is a bipedal, humanoid robot initially designed as part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) – a $2 million competition to “develop human-supervised ground robots capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments.”
IHMC, which took first place in the initial round of DRC trials, has unveiled a software update for Atlas that gives it enough human-like coordination to easily (albeit slowly) navigate stairs and raised obstacles. They've demonstrated Atlas' new abilities with the video below of the robot balancing on one leg on a stack of cinder blocks, performing a crane stance right out of The Karate Kid.
Anyone skeptical of the military applications would do well to remember Mr. Miyagi's words on the crane kick: “If do right, no can defense.”
Atlas' new abilities will be fully tested in the next phase of the DRC, which is scheduled to take place in June 2015 in Pomona, Calif.