PETMAN: a new chapter in anthropomorphic robotics

HAL 9000Roughly once a month an article about robotics crosses my inbox that strikes me as so curious (or concerning) that I rush over to WordPress and fire off a diatribe about our fascination with creating machines that emulate those things we see in nature.  16th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was one of the most famous writers of the French Renaissance and his quote about man’s unrelenting desire to create has been echoed for the centuries since he penned it: “Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.”  The good news is that we’re hard at work making our future robot overlords, so we have that going for us … which is something.

Boston Dynamics – the company behind the fascinating and slightly disturbing quadrupedal BigDog and AlphaDog robots – has developed an anthropomorphic robot called PETMAN to test special clothing for the U.S. military.  Not only can PETMAN accurately simulate the mechanical elements of the human physique (i.e., balance, walking, bending, squatting, etc.) but it also simulates other physiological elements such as temperature generation and perspiration.  While it is definitely a good idea to simulate the rigorous demands our service men and women will place on their clothing through the best means necessary, I cannot help but think there are a few folks at the Pentagon who are looking at this video while thinking about the overwhelming success of the airborne drone program and seeing a battlefield application for PETMAN in the not-too-distant future.

By the way, is it just me or if you slapped a skull-like head and a mini-gun on this thing wouldn’t it bear a striking resemblance to the T600 from Terminator Salvation?

Terminator T600

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