Google-owned robotics specialist Boston Dynamics has unveiled the first footage of its bipedal humanoid robot operating outside of lab conditions.
The droid known as Atlas - was shown on a pleasant hiking trip through a leafy forest, covering uneven slopes and getting a brisk turn of speed on flat ground.
Boston Dynamics has continually adapted and improved Atlas's range of motion, which can navigate irregular, rubble-strewn terrain and regain its balance after being struck by ballistic projectiles.
The Google robotics division has primarily designed Atlas for search-and-rescue missions, operating in disaster areas deemed too dangerous for human operatives. It weighs around 300 pounds, and stands roughly six feet tall with a laser rangefinder and stereo cameras for navigation and visual input.
Founder of Dynamics, Mark Raibert, was confident about Atlas's progress when he unveiled the footage at the FAB11 conference earlier this month, saying: "We're making pretty good progress on making it so it has mobility that's sort of within shooting range of yours."
"I'm not saying it can do everything you can do, but you can imagine, if we keep pushing, we'll get there," he added.
The hydraulically-driven robot still has some drawbacks, however. Most notably, it still needs a thick umbilical cable to provide its power, but Raibert confirmed the company is working on a wireless version.
Atlas was first built in 2013, and has received substantial funding from DARPA, the US government division charged with dreaming up new off-the-wall defence technologies, and multiple entrants for this year's DARPA Robotics Challenge based their robots on an Atlas model.
These versions included multiple new features, including wireless control and a built-in battery pack, indicating that the power tether might be gone before too long.
Boston Dynamics is part of Google X, the thinktank for ambitious projects that will eventually be spun off as part of the company's Alphabet restructure.
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Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.
Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.
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