Atlas robot tries to do the Karate Kid "Crane" stance

If robots of the future start trying to become our new overlords, we could probably trace it back to this day. Well, sort of. Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IMHC) is teaching its Atlas robot a few kickass moves. Or at least is trying to. The latest stunt this humanoid contraption is trying to pull off is that iconic stance from 1984's Karate Kid, popularly known as "The Crane". But while it seems to have its arm movements down to a T, it still needs a lot of work on its legs.

OK, the Atlas won't be kicking enemies, humans or robots, any time soon. Flapping your arms up and down is relatively easy. Jumping from a single foot to the other is easier said than done, especially for a robot that weighs 150 kg, almost thrice as much as Daniel-san back in the days. But smooth karate moves isn't actually the point of this exercise, but more about the extremely difficult task of keeping a robot of that weight and mass balanced on one foot a top a few concrete blocks, with its arms moving around. And yes, at least one of its legs does try to make a kick.

Atlas has also been programmed to run an obstacle course in the dark, with headlights installed on its, well, head. Considering that the robot is designed for disaster scenarios, that should be a more useful skill to have compared to trying to do martial arts. The robot is also due an upgrade and will be returned to Boston Dynamics to get stronger arms. The upgrade will also help the robot move without being tethered anymore.

These changes to Atlas are being done with the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in sight. The DRC will require competing robots to perform a circuit of consecutive physical challenges with little or degraded help from their human controllers. At the moment though, the exact nature of the challenges for the DRC finals are unknown, and we're unlikely to see one under a "Martial Arts" category. The DRC will take place June 5 – 6 next year.