Humanoid robot moves like a soldier, can drop and give you 20

To date, lifelike robots have pretty much been limited to fiction, in movies such as the “Terminator” series or the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em things in the recent “Real Steel.” Real-life robots, on the other hand, have been more like the Roomba vacuum cleaners or the variety of medical robots that look like appliances.

But we could be getting closer to humanoid robots in reality after all — at least, ones that move like humans.

Boston Dynamics, which three years ago produced the quadruped Big Dog for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has now created a two-legged, two-armed (though headless) anthropomorphic robot for use in testing chemical protective clothing.

Dubbed PETMAN, for Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin, the robot can balance itself on two feet; walk; crawl; do push-ups, dips, squats and other calisthenics; and resist attempts to push it over. It also, as part of its testing requirements, simulates human physiology when inside a testing suit, even sweating when the situation calls for it, according to Boston Dynamics.

The robot, built with the frame of a 6-foot-tall, 180-pound human, is designed to test how soldiers would stress protective clothing in harsh conditions. Without protective clothing, it looks sort of like the Terminator after its skin had burned off, although it doesn’t have a head or hands. (A head for PETMAN, at least, reportedly is on the way.)

Some of PETMAN’s technology was based on Big Dog, which can run at 4 mph, climb a 35-degree slope and carry up to 340 pounds in assisting warfighters in the field.

There are other two-legged robots, such as Honda’s Asimo, but PETMAN is “the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person,” Boston Dynamics says.

Here’s a video of PETMAN in action.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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