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July 13, 2013 / D.F.Dufty

Meet Atlas: the future of military robotics

Boston Dynamics, in partnership with DARPA, have developed Atlas – a humanoid robot that will be used for ‘friendly’ tasks such as disaster response.

Atlas has been developed for the Robotics Challenge, a DARPA funded competition in which robots must complete a series of difficult tasks. DARPA runs the Robotics Challenge in the hope that it will promote breakthrough developments in robotics that lead to the development of intelligent machines for disaster response activities.

Despite the benign, harmless goals of both the challenge and Atlas, some have suggested that the robot heralds the beginning of sophisticated killer robots such as those seen in the Terminator movies. While this might sound outlandish, it is quite possible that a robot that could traverse rough terrain and undertake complex tasks on its own could also be used for military purposes. And indeed DARPA’s core mission is not humanitarian, its purpose is to advance military technology. Once the technology is born, it breeds new generations and new variations as other researchers and engineers adapt the breakthrough to novel purposes.

So it’s true that Atlas is harmless.
We can’t be so confident about Atlas’ children.


Picture is copyright DARPA. More on Atlas:
Pictures of Atlas here.
Slate: DARPA’s new robot looks like the Terminator, or maybe Cleatus
Boston Dynamics: Atlas: The Agile Robot
New York Times: Modest debut of Atlas may foreshadow age of ‘Robo Sapiens’
Cnet: Domo Arigato, Mr Atlas; Be Afraid: DARPA unveils terminator-like Atlas robot
The Australian: Atlas is not a terminator, it’s a helpful robot, says US Army

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