Look Ma, no cables! Next gen ATLAS robot is quieter, freer

It seems that the original ATLAS might indeed be left for household chores if Boston Dynamic's version 2 becomes the biped robot to beat. The now Google-owned robotics company has just released a video showing off what it calls the "next generation" ATLAS robot. Calling it simply "next gen" or even version 2.0 might be something of an understatement, considering the remarkable improvement the newer robot has over its predecessor in terms of mobility, intelligence, and, perhaps most importantly, reduction in noise when the robot does start to move.

That's not to say we're downplaying the significance of the first, or rather current, ATLAS robot. That model, however, is simply a stepping stone to a more advanced future where it won't require cables to operate. This means that the newer ATLAS can, in theory, be used in more open spaces, where the equipment to keep it tethered would stand out too much or won't even be available.

It seems that mobility is the key improvement in this new version, and that applies not only to how it can move more freely but even how it can recover from a fall, whether by accident or through human cruelty. It's a critical feature in a bipedal robot, especially one that will be used for things like search and rescue or production lines. But the tests of its balance remind us of how many times Spot has been kicked for the sake of science.

Speaking of robotic "dogs", ATLAS also has one improvement that DARPA's BigDog would have probably loved to have before it got rejected by the US military. Although still audibly noisy, it had a significant reduction in that department. That said, ideally, the robot would use quieter electric motors, which still fall short of the power provided by hydraulic systems.

Despite the amazing progress, there's still some doubt regarding the intelligence of the new ATLAS. In particular, the video might have some portions were the robot was actually being remotely controlled by a human operator. In some cases, markers with QR codes were used as targets for the robot, and sometimes there weren't any. Everyone's still waiting for Boston Dynamics to give the official word on that.

VIA: IEEE Spectrum