Boston Dynamics, maker of the most uncanny walking robots in the world, has just taken its humanoid experimentation a step further. Now the robot-locomotion experts are using their PETMAN anthropomorphic robot to see how well protective clothing works in the real world.
When you watch the video above, notice PETMAN's human-like gait. It's getting close to looking like a human walking, especially when dressed in that camo gear, but still resembles an old man walking through deep snow. Even so, it's a remarkable achievement, and certainly functions as a realistic testbed for determining whether this hazmat suit will remain airtight in harsh or toxic environments.
You'll notice this PETMAN robot is attached by wires at multiple points, feeding it electrical power and retrieving data for researchers. That doesn't mean Boston Dynamics hasn't figured out how to get robots to balance themselves, though. In other videos, an unclothed PETMAN can keep walking upright, no matter how hard one of his scientist creators tries to push him over.
This is not the first foray into uncanny robotics for Boston Dynamics, maker of that noisy, self-contained contraption named BigDog, which uses its four legs to balance, climb hills and scare small children and animals. (It can even throw a cinder block to dangerous effect.)
If that's not astonishing enough, researchers created a Cheetah Robot that can run at 28.3 mph, which the company reminds us is a bit faster than Olympic gold-medal sprinter Usain Bolt.
Boston Dynamics is using these robots for research, and now to test the characteristics of protective clothing. What's next? Funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Defense Department's research arm, autonomous robot soldiers must be an inevitability. Fascinating.