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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Reader Comments

Sun, Nov 6, 2011

The robot here was designed to test chemical gear, so you are kind of jumping the gun on turning it into a warrior. I'm sure that's only a matter of time though. However, on paper, that was not the intention. You also are not looking at the bottom half of the glass. It is in no way cheaper to use an army of robots over humans. The amount of research and materials that would go into this enters billions before you would even have a small squadron of these things. The cost of human life is far more expensive, so i,'ll give you that, but then doesn't that make cheaper a better thing to achieve in this case? Would you prefer that we not develop such a technology and instead be obliterated by some other country's robot army?

Fri, Nov 4, 2011

When the U.S. decided to research using robots for warfare, it went beyond the bounds of reason. Taking a human life in combat should be the most difficult thing a human being can do to each other. By essentially making it easier to do, "less costly" to do, shows how self-destructive humans have become. I am no "peace-nik" nor a tree-hugger" -- but our lawmakers, military leaders, and citizens need to stop and take a deep breath just for a minute. We need to really zen in on how we are spending our public wealth. Maybe we should place limits on our insanity. Could we promote peace without donning a uniform and using our M-4s? Wouldn't it be cheaper? We didn't get into this quagmire because we did something "right", we dove into this mess like lemmings with not knowing who the enemy was, without a plan, and with no vision of the end. We should kill this kind of "research", so we don't repeat history more easily than we did before. We shouldn't go to war, because we can do it more easily and it will "hurt" less in the future.

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 about-robots

This robot is really cool, and clearly the most advanced of its kind. You focus on its creepyness, but really it is the most human-like robot ever made. It really walks like a human, and is, to my knowledge the first robot actually wearing shoes (see how they change at each sequence?) If you want to know why this robot is so cool, see this article

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