The fantasy world of Skynet and the T-100 is inching closer to reality with DARPA's Atlas program.
Based on Boston Dynamics' PETMAN humanoid robot, ATLAS will most likely go through an I, Robot puberty stage before reaching Terminator adulthood. The robot is being developed with some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world through DARPA's Robotic Challenge. The competition's goal is to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, according to DARPA.
Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a robot like ATLAS could mitigate future accidents by sending in a machine where it would otherwise be hazardous to humans. Like in I, Robot, these humanoids should be capable of opening doors, move debris, turn valves, and perform other human tasks.
The fact these robots are being developed to provide relief has done little to mollify the concerns over the threat of killer robots. "At the end of the day people need to remember what the D in DARPA stands for. It stands for Defense," said Peter Singer, in an interview with NPR. Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century:
Singer argues that if researchers build a robot that can drive cars, climb a ladder and operate a jackhammer that they can also be used for war. "That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47," Singer told NPR.
The challenge finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California where robots will be judged on their ability to perform semi-autonomous tasks. The winning team will receive a $2 million prize; runner-up will be awarded $1 million and $500,000 for third place.
Here's a short of video of the robot's current capabilities: