American promising robot Atlas has become wireless

American promising robot Atlas has become wireless
American promising robot Atlas has become wireless

The American company Boston Dynamics, which belongs to the transnational corporation Google, has presented an updated version of its promising android robot Atlas. It is reported that in June this year, the android will take part in the final stage of the competition, which was announced by the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The aim of the competition will be to create a humanoid robot that would become effective assistants for various civil services in the elimination of the consequences of emergencies.

DARPA Robotics Challenge

The Pentagon announced a new DRC program called the DARPA Robotics Challenge in early 2013. According to representatives of the military department, the finalist of the competition must completely replace people in the elimination of the consequences of emergencies, which are similar to the one that occurred in Japan at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant after the powerful tsunami, as well as the oil leak that occurred at the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico or when a mine collapsed in Chile. The robot must move freely on an uneven surface, which is strewn with numerous debris, use conventional and electric tools, be independent enough so that even the most skilled worker can control its work, and even drive a vehicle independently.

Initially, the participants in the competition were decided to be divided into 4 groups, 3 of which received funding directly from the Pentagon. The first (Track A) was supposed to create a robot and related software for it, the second (Track B) was engaged in the development of only software, the third (Track C) was engaged in the development of only a physical shell. Separately from them, the fourth Track D group worked, which created both the robot and the software for it, but for their own money.


Photo: DARPA

At the same time, the DRC competition itself was divided into 3 conditional stages. The first of these, the Virtual Disaster Challenge, which took place in June 2013, led to the formation of teams of participants from Groups B and C. They needed to combine their skills to create robots that would be able to compete with the androids developed by participants in Groups A and D.

The second stage of the competition was held in December 2013. It was attended by 16 teams, of which only 8 competitors were allowed to the final stage, who were able to score the most points. These companies were (in descending order of results) the Japanese company SCHAFT, Florida Institute of Human and Machine Perception IHMC Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University and the National Robotics Engineering Center Tartan Rescue, Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT, NASA's RoboSimian Jet Propulsion Laboratory, US company TRACLabs, UK Worcester Polytechnic Institute WRECS and the Advanced Technology Laboratory of the American company Lockheed Martin.

In the future, the Japanese company decided to refuse to participate in the final of the competition. Meanwhile, DARPA was able to determine the dates for the final stage of the DRC program - June 5-6, 2015. A list of 11 finalist companies was also published, to which, in addition to those already listed, were added the Laboratory of Engineering Sciences, Robotics and Mechanisms of the Virginia College of Technology - Valor, the University of California - THOR, the American company TORC Robotics - ViGIR and the University of South Korea together with the American company Rainbow - KAIST.At the same time, THOR and Valor acted as a single team in the second stage of the competition, but in the final they decided to perform separately from each other.


At the same time, DARPA employees presented updated requirements for humanoid robots, which will have to fight for first place in this competition. The prize pool for the DRC competition is $ 2 million. According to the new conditions, the developers of robots are prohibited from physically assisting their devices if they get stuck or fall during testing. The robot will need to return to the working position on its own, while the test task will be given one hour, and not 4 hours, as was the case in the second stage of testing.

The most important difference from the second stage of the DRC competition was the complete autonomy of the robots. They should be wireless, since in real operating conditions the wires greatly limit the range of robots and their effectiveness when working in an emergency area. In addition, all robots must easily endure long - up to one minute - communication interruptions, and their control must be organized over a secure data network.

Robot Atlas

Atlas is a humanoid robot based on Google's Android operating system. He was previously considered one of the most advanced robots on the planet, but now he is even better. The robot has got new dexterous wrists that allow it to calmly turn the doorknob without having to make a movement with its entire hand. In general, its design has been redesigned by about 75%. And his most important innovation was the autonomy of work, the robot received a battery, which "freed" him from the need for an electrical outlet. It was this circumstance that allowed the Atlas robot to pass to the final round of the robotics competition, which was organized by the research and development division of the American Armed Forces. Robots without batteries are simply not allowed to the final part of the competition.


It should be noted that the Boston Dynamics company gained wide popularity earlier thanks to such robots as AlphaDog and Petman. Both of these projects were also carried out for the DARPA agency. But unlike AlphaDog and Petman, which were originally designed for military missions, the Atlas humanoid robot is being developed for civilian services. Atlas became the basis for the participants in the DRC competition.

Six of the eleven companies participating in the competition have created their robots based on Atlas. We are talking about robots Helios from MIT, Atlas-Ian from IHMC Robotics, Werner from WPI-CMU (previously the team was called WRECS), Hercules from TRACLabs, Florian from ViGIR and Atlas from Trooper. At the same time, in a press release from the Defense Research Agency on January 20, 2015, it was said about 7 teams that work directly with an android from Boston Dynamics. Until the end of January, all these teams will be able to receive an updated version of the humanoid robot, which has received the designation Atlas Unplugged (i.e. wireless).

The redesigned Atlas robot looks much more sleek. He also received improved subsystems. For example, a more efficient and compact hydraulic drive, which allows the robot to move faster on the ground. The outwardly built android will be easier to cope with a number of tasks of the intended competition, for example, to squeeze into rather narrow spaces into which a person could penetrate. This is of great importance, since the android was specially designed to carry out work in such an area and in such conditions in which people are unsafe.

The new version of the Atlas robot has been modified so seriously that, in fact, only legs and feet remain from the previous model. At the same time, there is no reason to doubt that one of the most advanced robots on the planet will continue to improve in the future.According to the head of the DRC project Gill Pratt, only the "legs" did not suffer significant changes in the android - and those only below the knee. It is reported that the updated version of the robot is made of lighter materials, which were used for overall lighter construction and more mobile and plastic technology. The robot became easier to move around, and its movements more and more resemble human ones. Due to the lighter design, it was possible to equip it with a more powerful hydraulic drive with variable performance and, most importantly, with a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 3.7 kWh. (modern gadgets nervously smoke on the sidelines).


Photo: DARPA

This capacity is enough on average for an hour of intensive work, and the new hydraulic equipment allows the robot to operate both in battery saving mode and in maximum power mode, which may be needed to perform heavy work, for example, dismantling debris. In addition, the new hydraulic drive is significantly quieter than the previous one. Now, if you are in the immediate vicinity of a working robot, you no longer need to wear noise-isolating headphones. Also, a module was built into the body of the humanoid robot, which allows you to create a network and maintain communication with the operator.

In addition to the already listed differences, the new version of the robot has the following set of innovations:

- a wireless router was installed in the head of the robot, which is able to provide radio communication using commands;

- the shoulders and arms of the robot have been redesigned in such a way that the robot can freely observe the hand at the moment of movement;

- the position of the motors located in the knees, hips and back has been changed to make the robot structure even more robust.

At the same time, in the course of all the changes, the dimensions of the Atlas android have hardly changed in any way. His height is 188 cm, and his weight is 156.5 kg. It is reported that the robot received three new computers at once, which are responsible for its perception of the external world, as well as updated more powerful manipulators with a greater degree of freedom than the previous ones. The robot can now open the door with only one hand, without using the whole hand.

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