Atlas robot gets a major upgrade in time for the DARPA challenge

As contestants get ready for the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge they will have a stronger, faster and more mobile Boston Dynamics Atlas robot to work with.

The challenge, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is a competition where robot systems and software teams vie to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters.

Cosmos covered last year's event with a pictorial showing the contestants and their strengths and weaknesses.

Atlas was built with backing from DARPA and is the platform most teams use in the challenge. In the past it has had to be tethered to a power supply but no more, thanks to an almost completely revamped Atlas. DARPA writes:

The most significant changes are to the robot’s power supply and pump. Atlas will now carry an onboard 3.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, with the potential for one hour of “mixed mission” operation that includes walking, standing, use of tools, and other movements. This will drive a new variable-pressure pump that allows for more efficient operation.

The upgraded Atlas is 75% new and only the lower legs and feet were carried over from the original design.

Battery power is possible thanks to lighter materials – despite now carrying a hefty battery, the new Atlas weights 156.5 kg, just 6.5 kilos heavier than the original robot did. Its height remains unchanged at 1.88 metres tall.

Redesigned shoulders and arms allow for greater movement and flexibility, while electric motors give it great strength and speed.

DARPA will make the new robots available for contestants by the end of the month ahead of the finals 5-6 June in Pomona, California, with the team of the winning Atlas taking home a $2 million prize.

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