Earlier this month, the Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics released a video of its humanoid robot running through a forest. The RoboCop-type bot, named Atlas, freaked out some people, but the footage also had some tech geeks cheering.
A bot that can run over rough, outdoor terrain is a big deal in robotics, a field in which researchers are constantly working to develop machines capable of moving around outside the lab. Boston Dynamics has a handful of bots that run just as well as Atlas, and researchers from other institutions are also building machines that can ramble about in the real world.
From fish-inspired bots that can swim under ships, to canine-like machines that can gallop up hills, here are five of the coolest, most capable robots out there:
- Atlas unleashed
The Atlas robot was used by several of the finalists who competed in the DRC in June, including the Florida-based team that came in second place and the sixth place team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Though Atlas is a pretty good runner, the bot has room for improvement, according to Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics’ founder and a former professor at MIT and Carnegie Mellon University. (CMU).
- Snakes on an (inclined) plain
To build robots capable of sliding into small spaces and slithering over rocky terrain, researchers at CMU turned to snakes for inspiration. The modular snake robots created by CMU researchers can move their bodies in ways that humanoid robots would find troublesome. They crawl, they climb and some can even swim. But there was one thing that “snake bots” couldn’t do very well until recently: climb up sandy slopes. The snake bot can now slither over sand just as well as it can move across dirt. The new-and-improved bot is now an even more promising robot for future search-and-rescue missions.
- Man’s best robot friend
There are a lot of robots out there that could pass as pets, but how about a giant, mechanical dog? That’s how much Spot, Boston Dynamics’ newest, canine-inspired robot weighs. Spot can jog up and down hills, navigate through trees and keep its footing on uneven terrain. And the robot has siblings. Spot’s oldest brother, BigDog, is huge. And another Boston Dynamics four-legged bot, the LS3 robot, is just as big as BigDog, but it’s a bit faster and quieter, making it a better tool for soldiers and others who need discreet mechanical “pets” to carry their gear.
- Mechanical kitties
Speaking of pets, cat lovers needn’t feel neglected by the apparent lack of feline-inspired robots; there are several catlike robots out there, and they all have special skills.
- Futuristic fish
Another MIT robot made waves, after it demonstrated its swimming skills in an online video. Designed to swim just like a real fish, the autonomous bot is super flexible and fast, enabling it to turn on a dime. It’s important for this robot to mimic a fish precisely because it was made to infiltrate schools of fish and collect environmental data that can be brought back to researchers. Part of the robot fish’s success is its soft body, which mimics the anatomy of a fine-boned fish.
What do you think of these new and improved robotics technology? Very cool right?!