ATLAS robot learns to use a vacuum and broom

Brittany A. Roston - Jan 15, 2016
ATLAS robot learns to use a vacuum and broom

The ATLAS robot, when it’s not busy going for an outdoors run or being kicked, is busy living the mundane life — one that involves sweeping the floor, rearranging furniture (well, ladders), and using the vacuum. IHMC Robotics showed off the robot doing these tasks and more in a new video published today. While it won't be replacing your Roomba, ATLAS does make it a little easier to imagine we're nearing the Jetsons age.

Unlike many robots that have been shown off, ATLAS is humanoid in shape, though still clunky-looking and tethered at this point in its existence. The robot was created by Boston Dynamics and its control algorithm was developed by IHMC Robotics, the company that posted the video below.

The actual processes shown above didn’t take place quite so quickly; the video has been sped up 20x. Likewise, the reasons for teaching ATLAS to do chores isn’t very exciting — ATLAS has to run frequently, and its operators got bored with the same ol’ tasks. To shake things up, they taught ATLAS to do some work.

According to ATLAS’ operator John Carff, who spoke with IEEE Spectrum, he is controlling most of the actions you see in the video, but not entirely in the way you might think. Said Carff:

I’m not simply sitting there with a joystick teleoperating the robot: I tell the robot through the UI that I want to grab a bottle off the table by clicking the bottle and making sure that the resulting hand is in the correct place. Then, the robot tells me how it’s going to move its entire body to reach that location, through a preview in the UI. If I’m okay with the plan the robot has come up with, I tell it to execute that motion.