10 years of progress in Boston Dynamics robotics. pic.twitter.com/m0NwlEbBXO
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) March 12, 2020
Admittedly, the video above is old. But it’s making the rounds again on social media and, frankly, it’s too astonishing to not share. The video shows capabilities of Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robots in 2009 and 2019 side-by-side.
On the left is the Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin, which we know better as PETMAN. Unveiled in 2009, PETMAN was developed for the US Army to test the special clothing used by soldiers for protection against chemical warfare agents. It could walk at human speed, do pushups, and walk up stairs. The video shows a tethered PETMAN clumsily walking on a treadmill. But make no mistake about it, this was cutting-edge at the time.
The robot on the right side of the video, of course, is Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot, which is doing its best Simone Biles impression. Atlas, which is based off PETMAN, uses a compact mobile hydraulic system, custom motors and valves, and a dynamic control system to achieve its human-like moves. Atlas is about 5-feet tall and weighs just under 180 lbs.
Boston Dynamics has recently showed off some of Atlas’ more impressive skills, which include running, jumping, backflipping, and parkour. Here’s a few videos to enjoy:
A lot can change in 10 years. Just to make you feel old and refresh your memory about the goings-on of 2009:
- Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States
- Sony sold 12 million floppy disks
- Swine flu was the pandemic of the time, lasting from early 2009 to late 2010
A lot has changed for Boston Dynamics since 2009 other than its humanoid robots. To name a few things, it was acquired by Google in 2013 and then sold to Softbank in 2017. It created and started leasing SpotMini, it acquired Kinema Systems, and it developed Handle for logistics robotics.
So what will Atlas, and Boston Dynamics’ other robots, look like in 2030? Who knows, but I can’t wait to see.
Kenn Moulynox says
Fantastic progress. 2029 – T800
Last Call says
I would not say great progress… At the least it’s interesting progress. Bipedal ground movement is not nearly the most efficient or effective in negotiating terrain.
This domain belongs to arachnids, arthropods and insects (minus airborne). This type of robot would be a much more stable platform and could support a larger independent power supply and electronics.
Let’s say… Try moving the robot through sand or mud ? The weight displacement of the footprint may be an issue ?
John Milligan says
There are FAR bigger implications here than simply aiming for efficient movement. This advancement means advancements in bio-mechanical prosthetics, exoskeletons, and advancements to the human body are right around the corner. It’s also worth noting that in traumatic environments, having a machine that can go into areas built by and for humans, and provide enough of a proxy for the human form to help people feel comfortable around them is absolutely a vital step. There are numerous psychological studies that show that people are most comfortable around objects that they can relate to. It’s actually the most optimal path for robotics…despite there being better paths for terrain traversal.
Uthar Kadersin says
I still don’t understand why Atlas is walking like it is. Petman (the one with the hazmat suit) could walk almost naturally, with its gait mostly human-like and with its legs straight. Atlas is walking like Asimo does, with its knees always bent, which is really not how humans walk. It’s almost a regression to me. Atlas achievements in other areas are awesome, of course, but the walking still need some improvements.