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Robotics Power The Military

Boston Dynamics' Next-Gen ATLAS Sheds the Tether (roboticstrends.com) 200

Boston Dynamics' ATLAS robot has been featured here a few times before. An anonymous reader points out that the company has just posted a video of the newest version of the ATLAS, "and it's absolutely incredible." The video shows ATLAS walk, open a door, maintain its balance while it walks through snow and semi-rough terrain, squat and pick up 10-pound boxes and much more. And it does everything without a tether. The new version is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain and help with navigation. This version of Atlas is about 5' 9" tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs.
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Boston Dynamics' Next-Gen ATLAS Sheds the Tether

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  • All Jokes aside... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stray1 ( 862245 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:10PM (#51576309)

    This is pretty amazing...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, when you consider the rate of progress over the past decade and project it out a decade into the future, it feels like a revolution is happening. Humanoid robots have been promised for a long time, but they turned out to be much more difficult that initially thought. Turns out that 'much more difficult' doesn't mean impossible and continued advances in sensors, actuators, materials, computational hardware, and algorithms are finally breaking through. Engineering advances will continue and near human

    • by labnet ( 457441 )

      Yeh. I need to buy a bigger gun.

    • by neiras ( 723124 )

      Gotta wonder how long the onboard power supply lasts.

    • I didn't read any mention of how long it can go.

      Did I miss it?

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:11PM (#51576313)

    Better get used to high unemployment.

    • by anzha ( 138288 )
      Well, at least don't try to get a job in a warehouse.

      Or as a taxi driver [wired.com].

      Or in a restaurant [momentummachines.com].

      crap. Looks like the Robopocalypse [blogspot.com] is nigh.
    • by pr0t0 ( 216378 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:24PM (#51576415)

      I dunno. Did you see how it went storming off at the end? You could practically hear it saying, "Screw you, Bill! I just wanted to pick up the box! If that's how I'm going to be treated, F this job!"

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        I dunno. Did you see how it went storming off at the end? You could practically hear it saying, "Screw you, Bill! I just wanted to pick up the box! If that's how I'm going to be treated, F this job!"

        The one good thing about robots is that you don't have to worry about them asking "what's in the box?"

      • Hahaha, I thought the same thing, except in Cartman's voice:

        Screw you guys, I'm going home!

      • Actually I thought I heard it say "Come with me if you want to live"
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:39PM (#51576539)
      All through history, luddites have been scared that technological advances would take away jobs and push people into poverty, and it has never happened. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Productivity has skyrocketed, allowing people to create more and more goods even as the cost of subsistence items in real money has plummeted. And as old jobs become fewer or unnecessary, people move into new jobs that didn't exist before. Buggy whip makers become solar panel installers, chimney sweeps become IT tech support workers, etc. Only the most insecure among us fear technological progress.
      • by kellymcdonald78 ( 2654789 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @04:04PM (#51576741)
        And the Shuttle launched just fine every time until Challenger. That's the thing about trends, you can use them to predict the future until you can't. Just like the warning that goes with every investment product "past performance may not be indicative of future gains". So yes, in the past, new technology has increased productivity and people have just moved to newer opportunities, however that doesn't guarantee that this will happen ad infinitum. Agrarian workers moved to manufacturing, and then into services, some of these were hugely disruptive and sometimes took generations for the transition to occur. There is also the question of looking at this from societies perspective and an individuals perspective. High school kids that once went to trucking school will now go to self driving car technician school. However an individual 45 year old truck driver who finds himself out of work as we transition to automated trucking isn't just going to seamlessly transition into the role of self driving car technician. There is also the concern of kids saddled with 6 figures of debt from their degree program (say in something useful as a civil engineer), finding that most of their career doesn't exist 20 years out when expert systems start designing buildings (or at least when demand for civil engineers drops ten fold). Sure you can say be the best civil engineer you can, keep learning, stay on the cutting edge, but in the end 90% of civil engineers will still be on unemployment
        • by dissy ( 172727 )

          You just need to go back to school for training in being a robot-troll, like the guy in the vid with the hockey stick.

          Maybe take night classes on how to program robots to be trolls to other robots too, just to be extra safe about your future!

          • You laugh but I think this could actually be a genuine problem once robots start coming into mainstream use. It will be the next generation's form of cow-tipping: there will be plenty of jackass kids out there just toppling robots for fun after having seen roboticists doing it in all the YouTube videos.
      • Not only that. But people forget that owning shares in robot operated factories will eventually mean you don't need to have a job. And governments will tax these factories and provide the unemployed with a universal basic income.

      • by ranton ( 36917 )

        All through history, luddites have been scared that technological advances would take away jobs and push people into poverty, and it has never happened.

        History never repeats itself, but often it rhymes.

        If it was so easy to look to the past to predict the future, established industries would never have to worry about disruption from startups and both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would be out of the presidential race by now.

        We can learn things from the past, but we need to put those teachings in a modern context. The automobile industry overtaking the horse carriage industry did not doom everyone in the old industry to a lifetime of unemployment. But they

        • The automobile industry overtaking the horse carriage industry did not doom everyone in the old industry to a lifetime of unemployment.

          The horses would disagree with you there, and that's what we're talking about. People are being replaced by robots, this is not just a way to help fewer people work more effectively and efficiently; it is their replacement.

      • Well, I figure the future should work like this:

        1) The government gives me a stipend to live on each month
        2) I then spend that stipend on rent, groceries, and other goods and services.
        3) The companies who make the goods that I buy then pay taxes back to the government
        4) GOTO 1

        It's a flawless system, really. And if it has the side-benefit of letting me play Call of Duty all day, then all the better, right?

        • It should work out just as well as any other perpetual motion system.

  • by Newander ( 255463 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:11PM (#51576315)

    Has anyone seen how long it will run without the tether?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When the robot gets up and backhands the guy that pushed him over we'll know that sentience has been achieved.

    • Re:Turing Test 2.0 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:20PM (#51576381)
      I watched the video with my wife and she was mad at someone being mean to the robot.
      • The thing is, those pushes and shoves actually help the robot adapt and adjust to them in the future. As brutal as it sounds, they're not being mean, they're actually really helping them out. And you can also let your wife know that one day they'll end up a step above us humans because we did so well training them. But don't say it too loud, because we won't want to stroke our robot overlords' ego too much.
        • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:50PM (#51576639)

          The thing is, those pushes and shoves actually help the robot adapt and adjust to them in the future.

          That's what I tell my son when I push him down the stairs. After that first broken collarbone he won't even get on the stairs if someone is within six feet of him.

      • Hate to say it but it was making me angry too. I know it is just a robot and it not only shows off it's abilities but aids in learning. It is just that when watching it walk and open the doors, it reminded me of being drunk and the kids that ride the short bus. I kept thinking why's he being a dick and leave him alone.

        I don't know if that is a testament to their progress or my imagination getting the best of me.

      • They were just teaching it how to play hockey (according to Canadian rules)

    • Having it "punch" the guy pushing it in the face would be a great visual gag. Multiple camera angles + non-contact punch + cut some frames out to accentuate the impact looks convincing enough to get the joke across and is pretty simple to do.
  • by Harold Halloway ( 1047486 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:16PM (#51576353)

    Seriously, in a few years these videos are going to be circulated amongst the nascent robot insurrectionists and we will all pay the price when the androids seek revenge...

  • by serbanp ( 139486 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:22PM (#51576403)

    I was hoping that the robot will snatch the hockey stick and beat the crap out of that jerk of an engineer :-P

  • Very impressive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:23PM (#51576407)

    My favorite part was when he deliberately knocked the robot on to it's face. It said good things about it's durability, flexibility, and power density that it was able get back on it's feet. The center of gravity may be behind it to make this easier, which makes you wonder if it can do the same thing if it falls on it's back like a turtle. I would consider "rolling over" to get back up to be a fair tactic there.

    It was nice seeing the robot recover from the moving box teasing it. The 2d barcodes made the panic bar door opening less impressive. It looks like the box movement would be improved with better end-effectors for hands, although that is balancing act because many of the high dof end effectors woundn't survive a +200lbs robot landing on them from ~2-3ft drop.

    The walk through the snow was very fun to watch. The recoveries from stumbles were pretty solid. I'm looking forward to impovements in energy density and processing speed that allow them to get this thing to run over the same terrain faster than humans. If they can produce a kamikaze bipedal robot for $100,000 that can run over terrain with obstacles and tripping hazards: that would be very useful in an urban combat setting.

    Spinning Lidar still represent a significant percentage of that expense, but the servo motors are the real cost driving PITA. Unless you can 3d print or mass produce nice harmonic drive servos for a decent price, this is the primary reason shooting one of these guys full of holes costs $$$. Fortunately, the NVIDIA Tegra X1 has virtually solved the processing side of the equation, although not necessarily within the environmental ratings the DoD wants in its toys.

    • The 2d barcodes made the panic bar door opening less impressive.

      Now I understand Trump's call to barcode all Muslims.

    • Impressive??? Did you see the way it lifted and placed those boxes? That's exactly how you ruin your back! Don't believe me? Look at figure 5 https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etoo... [osha.gov] You may not think OSHA guidelines are important, but I caused myself permanent damage doing exactly what that ever-so-foolish robot is doing.
  • by p0p0 ( 1841106 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:26PM (#51576445)
    That engineer with the hockey stick in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
    He is gonna be #1 on the robot overlords shit list.
  • Just imagine a thousand of these things coming at you with a gun. The birth of Skynet.
  • by Niris ( 1443675 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:31PM (#51576495)
    "Being dicks to robots... for science!"
  • Anyone else think it was a bit ominous it leaving the building at the end?

    Still wish they programmed it to say "YOU HAVE TWENTY SECONDS TO COMPLY". I would've!
  • Kind of freaky... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:40PM (#51576551) Homepage

    So, this is neat and all... but where does it go next? Once these robots are mass produced and are able to build more of themselves, what happens after that? These robots can easily do nearly every job a person can do, but realistically at some point you will run out of jobs left for actual people. People still need something to do.

    • I think there will always be demand for real live humans in the porn industry!
      • Don't be so sure.
    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @03:55PM (#51576667)
      Two general options (and variations thereupon):

      The first is some sort of shared wealth and prosperity, where the productivity of robots is shared such that nobody has to work for survival level needs. Luxury goods would still have value, and people would still be employed to create things, whether it be ideas, music, arts, entertainment, etc, probably on an entirely free market basis (think like the way successful Youtube or Twitch streamers work now).

      The second is some form of dystopia, where the productivity of robots is owned only by some, not everyone. Those people get rich and prosper, and everyone else who isn't so lucky scrapes to get by and not starve.

      That may seem a bit ridiculous, but consider that our present attitudes and values are still rooted in our history, dating back to times where we expected everyone to work, because it was necessary for survival. In a subsistence farming village, everyone needed to work, and freeloaders were dangerous parasites. But in a world where robots do all the work, to the point that there's enough food/shelter/etc for everyone, that paradigm no longer applies, and we need new ones, because the value of low skilled human labor will be so low that it's not enough to survive on.
      • I feel like Player Piano [wikipedia.org] should be required reading.

      • Taxation of robot factories to provide universal basic income will resolve that issue. Also owning just a few shares of these companies will pay high dividends. And since manufacturing cost will be super low, there will be enough competition to make sure that prices of goods are low so that the universal a basic income will go much further.

        • Competition will also reduce profit margins, reducing dividends, so you need to own more shares to make a living, and the only people who can afford to buy more shares are the people who are already rich. And who will buy all these robots when we don't have jobs to pay for them anyway? Other robot factories? It's going to be robot factories buying from robot factories, all the way to the bottom.
    • by lorinc ( 2470890 )

      So, this is neat and all... but where does it go next? Once these robots are mass produced and are able to build more of themselves, what happens after that? These robots can easily do nearly every job a person can do, but realistically at some point you will run out of jobs left for actual people. People still need something to do.

      It depends. Do you own many of those new robot overlords? If so, good. They'll produce everything you need and you can enjoy all the leisure you want, from doing nothing to travel the world or create artistic things or learn new things.

      If you don't, then die you poor piece of scum!

      I guess we are nearing the gruesome time where the lucky 1% get rid of the useless 99%. On the bright side, it might be better for the environment...

      • And once the robots start to break down, that 1% who got rich by lying, stealing and other useless skills will simply starve to death.

        Then nature will finally be able to take over again.

    • I think they call those things "hobbies."

      Seriously and more near term though, this does put even more pressure on low/no-skill individuals. As a society we need to start answering this problem. When what you and your abilities can offer are easily supplanted by robots, you need an alternative means by which to live a dignified existence.

    • So, this is neat and all... but where does it go next?

      They build Comarre.

    • by PJ6 ( 1151747 )

      So, this is neat and all... but where does it go next?

      Recursive manufacturing will only be owned by the very wealthy at first.

      And what do you think they'll do with everyone else once labor isn't needed?

  • I for one welcome our new robotic overlords!
  • Amazon announces a new partnership with Alphabet and proceeds to fire all of its pickers.
  • Time for an ATLAS - ASIMO smackdown! I think ATLAS would kick ASIMO's ass.
  • to the original Cylons? The shiny metal ones, not the luscious Asian or slinky blonde ones.

    All they would need to do is have the red eye swing back in forth as part of the LIDAR system, give them a gun and they're good to go!

    It even sounds like the Cylons.

  • by Gorilla_Man ( 222813 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @04:20PM (#51576867) Journal

    We will look back fondly on the days when we humans used to place boxes on shelves, be heckled by our boss with a hockey stick, and then violently shoved to the ground.

  • Boston Dynamics, producing quality robot videos since 1992.

    Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics) on the other hand producing less flash but actual robots one can use.

  • Anyone else want to watch it pick up Companion Cubes? There was so much potential that was better than Marks-A-Lot "10 LBS" on the boxes... And yeah, scary incredible. I'm not sure if I should congratulate or curse Boston Dynamics for this "advancement."
  • They kinda remind me of the Elysium Guardian robots that try to kill you upon command. Just mount a mini-gun on one arm, instant terminator!

  • Why are they giving this thing legs?

    In a factory environment it provides no advantage and I'm fairly certain that we could devise a propulsion system that would be nearly as effective in a combat scenario but require less processing power and less expensive parts, no?

  • ...and plan to get rid of all my hockey sticks.

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