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Watch for our robot themed posts during May in honor of Make: Volume 45: Robots and don’t forget to subscribe to MAKE magazine.

Rockstar Robots make up the cream of the crop in the world of robotics. These are the bots that will turn heads with just their name being uttered. Even those who don’t stay on top of who’s making what should recognize a famous robot or two when they see it.

For the month of May, to celebrate the latest Make: issue on robotics, we’re going to be sharing many robot celebrities so you can know who is who the next time you’re at a robot gathering.

 

 


 

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas has gotten a makeover for the DARPA Robotics Challenge and no longer needs a tether to remain powered.

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas has gotten a makeover for the DARPA Robotics Challenge and no longer needs a tether to remain powered.

One of the more popular robots to hit the mainstream in the last few years is known for its demeaning and ‘Terminator-like’ appearance. When Boston Dynamics unveiled their Atlas robot, it instantly spawned references to Skynet, Terminator, and the stuff of nightmares.

It was actually designed for search and rescue operations and even the DOD (Department of Defense) has stated it has no plans on using the robot in combat, even though it can withstand being hit by a projectile.

The original Atlas is based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN robot, which was designed to test chemical protection suits.

The original Atlas is based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN robot, which was designed to test chemical protection suits.

As time passed, so did the sci-fi rhetoric and the DARPA-funded Atlas has since been overhauled from its original form by 75% for their upcoming Robotics Challenge. The updated version does away with the tethered power supply and sports a new 3.7kWh Li-ion battery pack, which can power the robot for an hour before needing to be recharged.

Boston Dynamics also outfitted the Atlas with a variable-pressure pump, enabling it to move without using as much energy as its predecessor. The robot features hydraulic-powered limbs for movement with the arms repositioned from the shoulders to the torso, which give it more strength and dexterity.

More noticeable is the slimmer physique with chest and leg coverings that Boston Dynamics says will allow it to squeeze into tight-fit spaces, much like its human counterpart.

Only the legs remain form the original version, however they do have improved balance, making the robot more efficient at traversing terrain.

Only the legs remain form the original version, however they do have improved balance, making the robot more efficient at traversing terrain.

The redesign is due in part to DARPA’s Robotics Challenge finals, being held in June, which pits various robots and software teams against each other in an effort to produce the best platform capable of assisting humans. One part of the contest involves robots opening a vehicle’s door, getting in, and then driving it—pretty sophisticated if you think about it.

The winning team will receive a cool $2-million in prize money with the runners up receiving $1-million and third place receiving $500,000. With that amount of money involved, it’s easy to see why the Atlas has gained celebrity status.