You may recognize the pose from 1984's "The Karate Kid," but this Atlas humanoid robot isn't preparing to enter a martial arts tournament. It's getting ready to take on others like itself in the next DARPA Robotics Challenge. In this case, it's demonstrating its stability by balancing on a stack of cinder blocks while moving its limbs to various configurations — which, if you've ever tried, you know isn't easy.
Being able to control one's balance like this isn't just good for doing crane kicks. Staying upright on shifting grounds or regaining control after slipping is essential for basic movement around the world. We do it automatically, but building a robot capable of it (Atlas was created by Google-owned Boston Dynamics) and making control software precise enough (the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition programmed this bot, named "Ian") is no mean feat. It'll be strutting its stuff next June, when the Robotics Challenge finals take place in Pomona, California.
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