You’ve been unnerved by BigDog, the creepy headless quadraped that Boston Dynamics is developing for DARPA; now meet PETMAN, the creepy headless humanoid robot that Boston Dynamics plans to deliver to the U.S. Army next year.
Though currently still in the prototype stage, this incredible biped can run 4.4 miles per hour, has a full range of motion that mimics the human body, and auto-corrects is balance, all within a frame similar to that of a human. But the final version of the robot will pack even more features, including a head, weight at a mere 180 pounds — analogous to a typical human male, and capable of mimicing perspiration and changes in skin temperature. Considering all that, the $26.3 million in seed money it took to get PETMAN on his feet seems like small potatoes.
According to Boston Dynamics, PETMAN will be used for “testing special clothing used by the US Army.” This would presumably include toxic environment gear, the idea being that PETMAN could wear the new kit into a dangerous situation and then be tested for dangerous exposure afterward. But let’s be honest, you don’t build a high-tech, multi-million dollar robot as a fashion model. A more telling explanation comes from IEEE Spectrum, who quotes Boston Dynamics’ VP of engineering Dr. Robert Playter as saying,
There are all sorts of things robots like PETMAN could be used for. Any place that has been designed for human access, mobility, or manipulation skills. Places like the Fukushima reactors could be accessed by PETMAN-like robots (or AlphaDogs), without requiring any human exposure to hazardous materials. Perhaps firefighting inside of buildings or facilities designed for human access, like on board ships designed for human crews.
Now it’s really only a matter of time before PETMAN ‘s stiff, robotic arms are knocking at my door and
asking for Sarah Connor delivering me flowers!
(via IEEE Spectrum)