Meet Atlas — Boston Dynamics’ Humanoid Robot; Soldier of the Future?

Boston Dynamics is a robotics company (recently purchased by Google) which, among other things, has been developing robots for use by the US Military. They have developed a pack-horse type robot known as WildCat that can be used to transport equipment in rugged terrain, and now they have released a new video in which they show a humanoid type robot in the lab and moving through a forested area.

It’s one of those videos that kind of wakes you up. This is something one would expect to see in some futuristic movie, but now we are seeing these things in the real world, and the technology looks pretty impressive. However, when one thinks of these kinds of robots in military terms, it brings up images of a whole new kind of combat, where machines, not humans are put on the front lines to carry out dangerous missions — like drones are doing in the air.

For now, it looks like Atlas has to have a minder to carry its power cord, but the presenter says they are working on a wireless version of the robot. If we look at future energy sources that we discuss here, such as LENR, we could come  come up with scenarios where these machines could run for very long times without the need for refueling.

We could be moving into a very different world.

  • Ged

    The only thing keeping the “Terminator” from being real is a good enough battery, or power source.

    But, hopefully like nukes, people won’t actually use these weapons. And there are Many other incredibly useful purposes for such robotics, like search and rescue, hazardous material containment and disposal, dangerous working conditions, space exploration, and more.

    The future is already now. It’s up to us to determine its flavor.

    • Mark S.

      No not even close. Maybe 100 years from now. Don’t be fooled by these videos, all are quite “dumb.” You need real-time GAI (general artificial intelligence) for a C-3PO or a Terminator.

      • Ged

        I used to think so too, but actually autonomous “terminators” are already in use on the ground in combat situations (with human oversight), and have been for awhile. They just aren’t in humanoid form yet, but do fine for hunting and killing.

        There is way more going on in classified work than I thought even a few months ago… We are far more advanced down the road than the atlas shows. Terrifyingly so.

        Things are changing fast between rail guns, warship killing lasers, AI, and meta material cloaks–like the autonomous robots (and cars), all have advanced to combat readiness outside the public eye, but have been around for decades or more. It’s our public awareness that’s having trouble keeping up.

        • Omega Z

          I agree.
          What they show us is deceiving.
          No one shows the public their latest & greatest achievements.
          Most of us have seen the 15Kw laser burning through a target over several seconds on YouTube.

          There is also the 30Kw laser that started it’s 6 month field test that was officially made a permanent fixture on the ship after just 3 months. It completely disabled a drone in under 2 seconds & you don’t even see the burn through as in previous video’s. They claim it can even target an RPG and take it out.

          A 150Kw laser is in the works & will probably be in field trials in under 2 years. Probably, it will take out a target instantaneously. One would be silly not to realize the sudden ramp up of this technology is the need to neutralize China’s supersonic anti-ship missiles & Iran’s fleet of swarm boats. You can now take out a multimillion$ missile or $30K boat for about 75 cents.

          Another technology fast advancing & under the public & news media radar. Underwater Drones. Currently tethered, but releasable. LENR would/could eliminate the need of a tether.

          • GreenWin

            Agree with both you guys. And I’ll add it’s depressing to see the $billions spent on AI and robotics for military purpose. Consider redirecting funds toward social science, raising standards of living, cultural tolerance, health and education.

            Accelerating military tech accelerates the probability of self-annihilation. Will humans – and more importantly their guides – choose the constructive or destructive path? Stay tuned. Popcorn and thin-crust pizza in the lobby. 🙂

          • LilyLover

            The barbarianism ingrained in the public mentality as moral obligation of the military use is the root of plush lifestyle. People love luxuries more than morality, the primal reason for downfall of any empire, including the brave Roman.

          • GreenWin

            Lily, for centuries kings and their armies have indoctrinated peasants
            to believe in a fire-breathing dragon living at the edge of town.
            Only the king’s army could keep the peasants safe. And so they became
            willing slaves of the king.

            Imagine a world with enough for everyone. Allowing those who want more to obtain it NOT at the expense of others. If matter is meaningless to the spiritual realm, then so too is material wealth. In spirit, a pauper and a king are no different. Each can be good, charitable, and benevolent; because
            “wealth” rests in the heart – not in the pocketbook.

          • Daniel Maris

            That’s silly. We face real threats.

          • Omega Z

            Rome did not fall because of it’s military adventures.
            It fell because they became to comfortable in their stable society. There were no longer marauding armies at their gates. It was all far away & they did not maintain their Military prowess.

            Over time, they even ceased to support their allies who came under attack & eventually their allies joined their enemies. Soon, the marauding armies were once again at their gates. They could not call on their allies for help because It was their former allies who were at the gates.

            They had become fat & lazy enjoying their peaceful society & had lost the knowledge of the art of war. An Art that was hard learned in previous generations when marauding armies were common in their region. If you are neither willing or able to fight for it, you will have no peace. History tells you this. Repeatedly.

          • Daniel Maris

            There are lots of theories about why Rome fell. One factor was certainly erosion of the tax base.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            I thought Rome Fell because a small cult calling themselves Catholics committed Forgery and Defrauded the ownership of Western Rome which included much of today’s Europe in the biggest crime in history.

            Bill gates robbery of Apples stolen Xerox programming would not compare to a fraction of a percentage of what the Catholics Stole.

            Then once the now Catholic Armies started loose on the populations mass murdering entire towns and villages of non Catholics, they had less armies to protect their borders, and such.

            Had Julius Ceasar not existed then his nephew Octavious Augustus never would have been able to impose himself as Romes first Emperor and if the republic had still existed then no Catholic Fraud could defraud an emperor 300 years down the road.

            The Forgery of Constantine was the fall of Rome. Not fat and laziness. So I disagree.

          • Omega Z

            To rid yourself of a military before it’s time can be folly.

            However, I would like to see the world come together & use such resources for space research and exploration & even the depths of the oceans. Note that the funding of a Military also acts as a major economic driver. 1.5 dollars for every dollar spent with Jobs creation & technological breakthroughs in science. Sadly, it involves killing & destruction.

            An International Space program would be a much greater economic driver, 7 dollars for every dollar spent & does not require the intentional taking of life. Nations could take pride in their space endeavors rather then their military prowess.

  • Christina

    I think that “Star Trek” would be great as a blueprint for robot implementation.

    I think “Star Trek’s” example of having only computers in cabinets and no robots that cannot be fit with an ethics program is a good goal.

    Yes, we should restrict mobile robots to dangerous work and rescue work and work-horse robots.

    Christina

  • Gerard McEk

    Yes, thats the danger of LENR: Military usage. You can think of many different things you can do with nearly endless energy: From automatic things doing intelligence to havy equipment doing battle and I am sure energy wapons will be developed too. I am not sure humanity will be able to to control this, in fact I am sure they will not be. That’s the dark side of LENR. Maybe we will also have a Rossi-prize (like the Nobel prize) in the future….

    • Omega Z

      Gerard

      LENR will reduce the number of military conflicts. It will not however, eliminate them. The U.S. will no longer need to guarantee the flow of oil for the world economies. However, there are other natural resources that may require such guarantees in the future. There are also those who live in the past & want to recreate or restore their past empires.

  • Steven Irizarry

    it needs a better battery and nano-tube based artificial muscles for a humanoid robot. you also need a artificial brain so that it can think and learn and improvise(which they are working on). this ideal humanoid will change the world

  • Mark S.

    I like the videos from around 2010 0r 2008 were they have the 4-legged “donkey-type robot” which slips on ice and gets up, stays balanced when someone tries kicking it over, manages climbing snowy hills, etc.

  • GreenWin

    As Frank suggests, indeed we are moving into a very different world. It is a world aquiescing to artifice. Artifice manifested as high tech robotics, electromechanical “humanics,” & computer dependent sensor systems. All of these systems attempt (in some cases succeed) to mimic and “improve” on the organic human lifeform that conceives them. But we must ask ourselves; are robotics and AI capable of improving on the elegance of organic human design?

    The link below demonstrates how an advanced Naval warfare system (USS Donald Cook, Aegis Missile Destroyer) is rendered utterly impotent by a single Russian SU-24 flyby. The Russian aircraft had no weapons onboard. It did have a powerful EW system, likely centered around coherent (directed) EMP. The incident is daunting, and demoralizing. Our most advanced, AI-empowered defense systems blinded by one, unarmed aircraft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s4sKAMgYsU

    Sure, it’s cool to see Boston Robotics gadgets mimic human behavior. Yeah it’s cool they use state of the art algos, firmware, hardware, etc. But as the USS Donald Cook incident confirms – BFD. This tech is highly vulnerable to all manner of attack. The more complex the system – the easier it is to disable. Maybe the (U.S.) mil wigs should grok their “best and brightest” are selling ’em high brow bullsheit FCS (Future Combat Systems – a gigantic $25B fail.)

    And perhaps the lesson is “bigger is not better.” “Smarter” is not smarter. After all, how many military victories have been won by simple, loosely organized militias (Concord’s Minutemen,) far more creative than their opponents? The march toward a robo-centric future is readily destroyed by opponents exploiting the myriad vulnerabilities of AI and robotics.

    • Omega Z

      Rule Number 1. When you create an unbreakable code, create a way to break it. Then deploy the unbreakable code.

      Before the U.S deployed stealth technology, they had already developed a way to circumvent & detect stealth technology. The U.S. has practiced EW for 50 years. They know how to circumvent it.

      Each side tries to provoke the other to show their hand. A Submarine is making a B-line for Boston harbor 600 miles out. You wait till it’s 50 miles from your shoreline to send vessels out to dissuade them. They are aware you detected them farther out, but have no idea how far. Keep them guessing. because once they have a confirmed answer, they too can learn to circumvent the technology. It’s simple. The more info you have, the more you know where to look.

      It’s similar to Rossi providing small details about his E-cat. The more he shares, the better others are at speculating what is taking place.& the sooner they will figure it out. Thus, I do believe that on occasion Rossi gives misinformation. Thus sending people in the wrong direction buying him time to make additional advances. At the very least, it leaves everyone scratching their head saying WTF… This makes no sense..

      • GreenWin

        Good point. However, sensors must be sensitive to spectrum. Directed EMP is difficult to avoid without disabling those sensors. Maybe USS Donald C. played possum. Maybe the SU-24 used outdated EW.

        “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

    • visitor

      You have fallen for a Russian military-propaganda fantasy. If you actually believe Aegis destroyers are not hardened against that sort of threat, then you need to give it a little more think.

  • we want LENR Fusione Fredda

    Where is the head? Gut impression: scary. http://futureoflife.org/AI/open_letter

  • Ged

    You’re making the mistaken assumption that AI’s will take the form you’re expecting, or that they will think like you in recognizeable ways. Nothing terminators or C3-PO does needs self aware AI, which is another mistaken assumption being made.

    Beside self awareness, what makes humans special is our immense adaptability, beyond any other living thing or machine. A terminator AI doesn’t need social or other types of adaptability, it just needs to recognize humans and do its business. It’s really simple, and it needs no self awareness–at least not the recognizeable human sort, though it could be self aware in ways you don’t recognize, very easily.

    True AIs can be utterly alien from us and never need be the limited definition of GAI. Fact is, AIs are already being used, and used to kill people, and the stuff the military has makes university and Google/Facebook stuff look utterly Neanderthal. Even Japan has developed more advanced AI than anything I’ve seen at American universities by a great margin, and already have such robotics in their society performing functions from getting groceries (which requires very adaptable and GAI like abilities) to being maids or running hotels. Completely functional AIs making choices within the scope of their goals–that’s all that’s needed.

    Classified stuff at the NSA blows away any preconceived notions of AI one may have, and is required for combing through all our data and making intelligent decisions about human conversations and habits without any human input at all. There is so much more going on, and it isn’t all taking the narrow human like definition of GAI. Even C3-PO is real today, as nothing he showed in the movies was GAI other than his limited self awareness (and was he really, or simply programmed that way for human interaction?), just specific translation and mobility abilities our AIs already have.

    We need to revamp our thinking, because the world is changing faster than our outdated expectations and preconceived notions.

    • Daniel Maris

      I agree Ged. For one thing, these robot soldiers would obviously be used autonomously, guided either by home based operators (as drones are) or by human soldiers stationed somewhat out of harm’s way. In principle it’s not really that different from firing artillery (which also carries the risk of hitting friends or civilians). The enemy line may be a mile or two away. You identify the enemy line and send in shells. In this case, you send in your robot soldiers to do a more relentless kill and destroy mission.