Atlas robot gets pushed, doesn't fall, doesn't fight back

Sometimes you'd think that it's "tests" like these that would have robots rebelling against their cruel human masters in the future. But for now, however, while they still don't have the intelligence to do so, we will keep on poking them. For Science! With DARPA's Robotics Challenge, the most grueling display of non-combative robot resilience, nearing its finals next month, teams like the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) are pushing their Atlas robot to the limit, making sure they don't fall. Or don't push back.

Late last year, IHMC demonstrated how its Atlas-based robot could assume "The Crane" stance popularized by Karate Kid. More than just an homage to pop culture, it was a demonstration of the rather top-heavy robot's balancing skills. Of course, it wouldn't be able to execute a kick, but that's beyond the point anyway.

This time around, their latest video shows the Atlas robot being pushed beyond its peaceful stance. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate the robot's error correction abilities in the face of applied force. That said, the robot didn't perform completely well, finally stumbling back in the end. That might not bode well for IHMC's chances.

DARPA's Robotics Challenge is for human entertainment (hopefully). The contest is to provide roboticists and engineers with incentives to develop technologies that would let humanoid robots operate under unfavorable circumstances, like search and rescue operations or disaster response. In such cases, balance and fall avoidance are not only handy but even critical. The finals will be held from June 5 to 6.