We’ve talked about Atlas previously; before Google bought out Boston Dynamics, it was on track to be a robot built for the military that could bash through a wall, use “human tools” on everybody in the building, and then steal your car. Now, we have no idea why Google is interested in it, which is somehow worse. And, oh look, they’ve made it better at sneaking up on you and more independent. Why not just give it silenced pistol hands while you’re at it, guys?
Joking aside, the new Atlas is exciting in many respects, although the name “Atlas Unplugged” has a few Objectivist connotations we’re not sure we should give to a robot. It’s been pretty much completely redone, with 75% new parts, and losing both the safety tether and the umbilical cord does mean that if you want to use this for public safety purposes, you could. In fact, that will be the theme of DARPA’s upcoming Robotics Challenge finals, possibly working on the theory that if you can handle a firehose, you can handle a rocket launcher.
In short, we are the closest we have ever been to an autonomous helper robot. That, in turn, could lead to some amazing things. Or Skynet. We’re fifty-fifty on that one.