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February 25, 2011

Boston Dynamics Wins DARPA Contracts to Develop Robots that are Fast and Agile


One robot called ATLAS, a humanoid with two arms and two legs, will climb and maneuver in rough terrain to achieve human-like agility. A second robot with four legs is called CHEETAH; it will sprint faster than a human, corner like a race car and start and stop on a dime.



– Boston Dynamics, developer of BigDog, PETMAN, RHex and other dynamic robots, announced today it was awarded contracts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop two new robots, one agile and one fast. The ATLAS robot will take the shape of a human being, with a torso, two legs and two arms. It will move through difficult terrain using human-like behavior: sometimes walking upright as a biped, sometimes turning sideways to squeeze through narrow passages, and sometimes, when the terrain gets its nastiest, using its hands for extra support and balance. Unlike most other humanoid robots that use static techniques to control their motion, ATLAS will move dynamically leveraging the advanced control software and high-performance actuated hardware that is Boston Dynamics’ specialty.

The CHEETAH robot will have four legs, a flexible spine, an articulated head/neck, and possibly a tail. It will run fast: faster than any existing legged robot and faster than the fastest human runners. In addition to top speed, the CHEETAH robot will be designed to make tight turns so it can zigzag to chase or evade, and it will accelerate rapidly, starting and stopping on a dime. Like ATLAS, it will leverage the advanced control software and high-tech mechanical and electrical systems that Boston Dynamics created for previous robots, such as BigDog, PETMAN and others.
Petman is shown

ATLAS will walk like a man, using a heel-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step,” explains Rob Playter, the ATLAS principal investigator and VP of Engineering at Boston Dynamics. “We have already achieved some advanced behavior in PETMAN, an anthropomorphic robot we developed for the Army, so ATLAS will start out with a leg up on the problem by leveraging the PETMAN results.”

In addition to military applications, such robots can be used in civil and commercial applications such as emergency response, firefighting, advanced agriculture and vehicular travel in places that are inaccessible to conventional wheeled and tracked vehicles.

The Boston Dynamics website page on the petman robots


ATLAS will walk like a human over rough terrain, crawling on its hands and knees when necessary and turning itself sideways to slip through any narrow passages it encounters.

Wired has coverage as well

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