It’s a pose all kid who grew up in the '80s can confirm you: the "crane" from the 1984 classicThe Karate Kid.
Now a humanoid robot made by Google has mastered the similar move: balancing with one robotic foot atop a stack of cinderblocks, while raising the other knee up to its hard chest and lifting its arms so they look like a pair of wings.
Then it jumps! No, not in reality. The Atlas robot — which was built by the now Google-owned Boston Dynamics (the same robotics company that brought you Big Dog and a robot that can run as fast as a cheetah) and planned by The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) — balances for a long while, but never pulls off the trademark kick similar to Ralph Macchio (who played the lead character in Karate Kid).
nevertheless, what Atlas does do is mind-boggling.
In the generally minute-and-a-half-long video, the robot not only pulls off a wonderful crane, it also practices other poses, all while managing never to fall off the blocks. Watching Atlas in action, one has to surprise if a human could handle a related feat.
Creepiness aside, the talent for a robot to walk, run and normally stay upright is not small feat. The human body is held upright not by magic, but by continually adjusting muscles, all restricted by the brain, which gathers information from places similar to the ears, which help us manage balance. Even walking for us is mainly controlled falling.
If you wish a robot to walk and move like a human, you have to duplicate much of that cleverness. Now, however, that robot intelligence (or algorithm) includes balancing on one artificial leg, which is an order of magnitude more complicated for humans and robots.
Go ahead — attempt balancing on one foot while standing on the floor. Not bad. Now attempt it on top of a stack of books. We’ll wait. Bet you have a bit more value for Atlas now.
Like everything else Atlas can do (walking, climbing stairs, avoiding obstacles), the humanoid’s latest tricks are not just fun technology exhibition. Atlas is, in a sense, training for a big effort.
ast year, Atlas came in second in the DARPA Grand Challenge by proving it could complete many of the responsibilities normally provided by first responders to disasters.
The robot heads back to DARPA competition this year, and some scientist believe its Crane pose could lift it up and over the competition -– or at least deliver a final blow to the chin.
By the way, if you want to teach your own robot how to stand and pose like Ralph Macchio, you're in fate. IMHC Robotics started open-sourcing its algorithms, which may at last include the Crane move, in September.