The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) has created a humanoid robot test bed that could lead the way to the creation of machines intelligent enough to do tings like find people buried in rubble after earthquakes and enter 'hot' nuclear power plants. Also, presumably, to be used on the battlefield as 'land drones,' and in other applications yet to be imagined.
The robot, called "Atlas," was developed by a firm which has been working on robots that can aid the military. But before it goes into action, the robot has to go to school: DARPA demands that Atlas complete eight tasks that it might have to perform in an emergency before it's deployed. The contractor has only a few months to develop software that will help Atlas complete these tasks.
Like a human, Atlas has two arms and legs and gets around by walking on two legs like a person. It 'sees' using a stereo laser scanning system and has gripping hands. Unlike humans, it has a high speed networking system built-in so it can communicate with its creators and pipe data back from disaster areas.
As it now appears, this technology is already far advanced. It is likely that humanoid, task-capable robots have been under development in secret for many years.
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