The machines won't destroy us, they'll save us. At least that is the idea behind the latest wave in robot technology. Researchers at MIT are developing a six-foot-tall humanoid robot called Atlas, which could be used to respond to disaster situations that could be dangerous to humans. Developers envision robots like Atlas as the future of first responders, able to perform tasks like climbing, carrying, opening doors, even driving vehicles while under the control of human operators who are out of harm's way.
Dr. Robin Murphy, Director of Robotics at Texas A&M, says this humanoid robot technology is not all that new or as far-out as it may sound. "Robots are beginning to be used more and more for applications such as search-and-rescue and disaster response," she tells KTRH. "Land, air and underwater robots have been used in 37 disasters since their first use in 2001, which was the World Trade Center (on 9-11)." Dr. Murphy explains that these robots are designed to complement, not to replace, humans. "Kind of like a service dog or riding a horse," she says. "It's a cooperative system."
Indeed, the developers of Atlas are designing it to be controlled and manipulated by human operators. Still, the advancements in this particular brand of robot are far beyond what has been done before. "What's really pushing the envelope is mobile manipulation--having hands and arms, and being able to grasp and move things," says Dr. Murphy. "This is moving robots from being the eyes of the responders to being the eyes and the hands of the responders." The next big test for Atlas will be at a robotics competition next year, with a $2 million prize at stake.
Watch Atlas the Robot in Action Here