PETMAN – Boston Dynamics first anthropomorphic robot
Boston Dynamics, makers of various robots, have announced their newest projects. One of the projects is their development of a bipedal humanoid robot called PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin). As part of a $26.3M Army contract, PETMAN will be the first human-like robot that moves dynamically as humans do. While we currently look to robots as ASIMO or the running robot from Toyota as examples of impressive bipedal, humanoid capability, PETMAN’s motion has to be faster and even more natural. Additionally, PETMAN must be the same size and weight as an average human man.
According to the developers, PETMAN is designed to test the suits used by soldiers to protect themselves against chemical warfare agents. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. In order to make it really simulate humans as accurately as possible, PETMAN will even be able to “sweat”.
The sweating comes from a special mannequin skin developed by another subcontractor called Measurement Technology Northwest, and of course Boston Dynamics’s well-known technology will enable PETMAN to demonstrate the same incredible self-balancing and motion dynamics seen on their four-legged robot BigDog.
The PETMAN’s walking style and ability is eerily human. The heel to toe walking style and gait is just like a human, and the robot reaches a respectable speed of 5kmph. With its ability to withstand a decent kick or hit from the side while walking it is clear that robots are now capable of balance and control that nearly matches a human on flat terrain. In the next decade we can expect bipedal humanoid robots to conquer more than flat terrain, and also to bump up their speed to full out running. The development program has a 13 month design phase followed by a 17 month build, installation and validation phase, with delivery of the robot taking place in 2011.