How does the most complicated robot on Earth work?


When it comes to robots now, no one seems to imagine the footage from the Terminator. People have learned to use robots for the benefit of society, and now under this definition are hidden not only humanoid machines, but also those that are simply able to automate this or that process. Huge industrial robots are used in mining plants, car assembly plants and domestic appliances, and their small counterparts have settled in some homes. But is there the most complex robot on Earth? And if so, how does it look and work?

How was the most complex robot created

Battle robot

Such a robot was created almost 7 years ago, and it is constantly being finalized, so no one has managed to beat it yet. The U.S. Agency for Advanced Defense Research Projects (DARPA) and Boston Dynamics developed the Atlas humanoid robot. It has 28 hydraulic joints, multiple sensors and an advanced control system.

Space machine

Boston Dynamics says the robot was originally operated by an operator to create a three-dimensional map of the movement area. But then, the humanoid was able to move independently with information about its surroundings and obstacles on the way.

Initially, it did resemble a Skynet minion and could not move without connecting to a controlled computer and power supply. He was 190 centimeters tall and weighed 136 pounds. It only took a couple of years for developers to release a new version of Atlas, which became the most complex robot on Earth. First they upgraded its firmware, and then they upgraded the entire “body”, making the robot even more human-like.

The new Atlas Boston Dynamics robot

The developers have added a 3.7 kWh battery to the humanoid robot, which can provide it with an hour of battery life, including movement and some other actions. In addition, the engineers had to use lighter materials to compensate for the weight gain by installing the battery in Atlas. The creators also added a wireless communication module to the robot and improved its moving parts, increasing freedom of movement for the humanoid. It was reduced to 1.5 meters in height and 75 kilograms in weight to make it easier to maneuver. The engineers wanted to make the robot as light and strong as possible, many of them designed it from scratch by developers from Boston Dynamics and printed it on a 3D printer. Nobody else has one of these.

Since then, the robot’s creators have been improving its navigation system and teaching it new movements that could potentially be useful to it in difficult conditions. Last year, Atlas learned how to turn around in a 360 degree jump – just like a gymnast. So how does he do all that?

Atlas is the only robot on Earth that can do tricks with 80% accuracy.

How does the most complex robot

In addition to the 28 swivel joints that Atlas uses to move its arms, legs, back and other parts of its “body”, the robot is also equipped with many motors (a number that are kept secret) that drive it and are powered by a built-in battery. How does the robot understand that it has to step over an obstacle, for example? To do so, it has stereo vision, lidars, gyroscopes, rangefinders and other sensors that help it navigate through space. All this information goes to the CPU, a very powerful chip that sends a signal to the motors. And they’re already putting the robot into motion. The work of Atlas can be compared to the work of the human brain: if the human eye sees danger, it sends information about it to the brain, and from there the command is given, for example, to duck the body or move aside.

The Atlas has separate motors for each limb, a built-in cooling system and wires that resemble human veins.

Atlas has one of the most compact mobile hydraulic systems in the world. With special motors, valves and hydraulic power units, Atlas can supply the necessary power for any of its 28 hydraulic connections. That’s why it’s so passionate about parkour, running, tumbling – no other robot can do it. And because no one else makes analogues, Boston Dynamics has to make most of its components from scratch.

Black metal machine

In a few years, the robot has been provided with an advanced control system, thanks to which it knows a lot of movements. It takes 0.5 seconds to plan each movement – during this time the robot analyzes the space around it (from sensors), weighs itself (evaluating whether there is enough power to lift the body and overcome the obstacle) and makes a decision. Interestingly, engineers have managed to teach the robot to use its hands for body balance in the same way as a human.

Atlas robots have a maximum travel speed of 1.5 m/s or 5.4 km/h, which is comparable to human walking speed.

Some people thought in our Telegram Chat that the robot had intelligence, but this is not the case. Its software was entirely written by engineers who can control the robot with macro commands (e.g. make it run, sit down, take a step and so on). That is, it is either controlled “from the console” or simply executes programmed commands. The commands are already converted into microactivity and limb algorithms to provide these movements. It is controlled by a humanoid using a robotic operating system (ROS – Robotics Operating System). Most extensions for it are written in C++ and Python programming languages. However, this information was not officially confirmed – Boston Dynamics keeps a lot of secrets. You bet, because this is the most complicated robot in the world.

Why do you need robots

Machine future sports robot

Boston Dynamics plans to add artificial intelligence to the robot, and there to be able to react to teams nearby. Of course, you can record a set of phrases and embed them, but it’s some kind of “innovation for innovation”, it is now available even in your smart speaker. Here, the scales are quite different.

Initially, Altas was created for rescue operations after man-made or natural disasters. For example, to deal with the aftermath of the tsunami and the explosion of a nuclear power plant, as happened in 2011 in Japan. But every year the number of its applications grows, and who knows – maybe in 20 years such Altas will meet you at the reception in a hotel. Or used as a substitute for soldiers in the army. Though… the first option is better.

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