We may have seen robots that walk upright on two legs before, but most of them are kind of awful. The PETMAN, coming from Boston Dynamics, is anything but.
The PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot designed for a bit of a boring purpose: testing chemical protection clothing. I know, this is extremely important and could save lives, but any robot not intended to launch missiles is a waste of a robot in my opinion. PETMAN at least should be the best damn chemical suit tester in town, intended to eventually be able to crawl and do suit stressing calisthenics while also simulating human physiology by sweating and regulating its own temperature.
The PETMAN’s 30 month development program should see a final model delivered in 2011, with the 17 month build phase already underway as we can see from the video. I don’t know why but the big lens in the front of it makes me think it should be used for Google Street View, drawing the ire of society and causing a huge uproar over robots invading our privacy. I just can’t imagine a bipedal robot like this only being used to test chemical suits; eventually it will have to be used for something else as well (like launching missiles). If you’ve never seen PETMAN’s cousin, the BigDog, here is an older overview video for that disturbingly lifelike robot as well.
Boston Dynamics undoubtedly makes the coolest robots I’ve ever seen, and they have the secondary trait of looking similar to Metal Gear Solid 4‘s Gekko. Seriously, does anyone not expect the PETMAN and the BigDog to turn on their human masters someday? They’d be invincible; they can’t even be pushed over! This example of the BigDog walking with soldiers brings things into a more realistic perspective, showing the support robots like this could offer the troops.