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Atlas Robot marches out the door, possibly to search for new owner

Posted by Lisa Harvey,

Image credit: Boston Dynamics

The latest internet phenomenon, the Atlas robot, was seen marching through the snow in a February 26 video from Boston Dynamics.  The video has appeared on virtually every major news site and has racked up millions of views. Towards the end of the video, Atlas marches right out the door, after it takes a number of pokes and jabs with a hockey stick.

Many surmised that Atlas stormed out after becoming fed up with the repeated bullying. As it turns out, Atlas may have left in search of a new owner. Last week, Fortune reported that Google was looking to sell Boston Dynamics, the company behind Atlas.

Image credit: Boston Dynamics

Bloomberg first broke the story, speculating that Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a division of Toyota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc. are potential suitors. Boston Dynamics, founded in 1992, was a spin-off from MIT. It was purchased by Google (Alphabet) in 2013.

Boston Dynamics developed Atlas for a DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA ‘s goal was to foster the development of robots that perform rescue missions. DARPA provided Atlas robots to select teams, including MIT, as a platform for robotics development.  Check out this story to see how a team from MIT used MATLAB and Simulink to develop, debug, and test control algorithms for their Atlas robot in under 5 months.

From the time we received our robot to the day of the competition, we had less than five months to develop, debug, and test our controller algorithms. MATLAB and Simulink helped us keep to this aggressive schedule. We were able to prototype highly sophisticated, optimization-based controllers at a pace that would have been impossible with C or another low-level language.
Professor Russ Tedrake, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

While Atlas was originally developed for rescue missions, the new video does show Atlas stocking shelves. That explains why Amazon may be interested.  TRI has committed $1 billion USD over the next five years to develop technologies to increase driving safety and improve mobility and quality of life, based on robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. So the potential  fit is there, especially when you consider that one of the goals of TRI is to “apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly for the support of seniors.”

Leave us a comment to let us know a job that you think Atlas could do.

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