If you were tasked with testing clothing that was designed to protect soldiers from chemical weapons, it goes without saying that you wouldn't dress an actual person up in those clothes, then fire chemicals at them. If you just put those clothes on an inanimate mannequin, however, it wouldn't provide any information on how effective those clothes were when in motion, or in a wide variety of body positions. Well, that's where Boston Dynamics' PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) humanoid robot comes in. The self-balancing clothes-testing machine can walk, run, crouch, and even do push-ups. Today, PETMAN's creators released the first-ever public video of the robot being put through its paces - and it's pretty impressive.
A hydraulic actuation system moves PETMAN's various appendages, via an umbilical tether. The robot is designed to physically represent a "50th percentile male," with a weight of 80 kilograms (176 lbs) and height of approximately 1.75 meters (5.74 feet). It is also able to simulate respiration, perspiration and changes in skin temperature, in direct response to its level of physical exertion.
In its current headless state, PETMAN is somewhat reminiscent of the nasty Hector robot, from 1980's Saturn 3. A head and neck are reportedly in the works, however, as is the possibility of a non-tethered version of the robot, which could be used to carry out tasks in hazardous environments. Although that might seem like a tall order, Boston Dynamics has already achieved success with its self-contained quadruped BigDog robot.
The company plans to deliver PETMAN to the U.S. Army next year. The video below was first shown last month in San Francisco at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, but hadn't been made public until now.
Source: IEEE Spectrum