Humanoid robot that could save people in disasters unveiled

July 12, 2013 at 1:46 PM
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WALTHAM, Mass., July 12 (UPI) -- A Pentagon-financed humanoid robot named Atlas that made its debut Thursday could come to the aid of people in natural and man-made disasters, designers say.

The hydraulically powered machine is equipped with both laser and stereo vision systems as well as dexterous hands and is designed to perform rescue functions in environments deadly to humans, The New York Times reported.

The walking robot was unveiled at the office of Boston Dynamics, the robotics research firm that led the design of the system.

Six examples of the Atlas robot, made from aircraft-grade aluminum and titanium and weighing 330 pounds, will be given to companies to take part in the Pentagon competition in 2014, with a $2 million prize to the company that programs their Atlas to best perform an elaborate rescue mission.

However there is still a long way to go, said Gil Pratt, a program manager at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Agency, which oversaw the design and financing of the 6-foot 2-inch robot.

He compared the current version of Atlas to a 1-year-old.

"A 1-year-old child can barely walk, a 1-year-old child falls down a lot," he said. "As you see these machines and you compare them to science fiction, just keep in mind that this is where we are right now."

But the would learn quickly and would soon have abilities closer to those of a 2-year-old, he said.

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