Watch The ATLAS Robot Do Simple Chores Slowly

Don't send a humanoid to do a Roomba's job

ATLAS Robot Vacuums

ATLAS Robot Vacuums

Screenshot by author, from YouTube

With an electronic tether descending from the ceiling above, the ATLAS robot at the the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Florida looks like a cybernautic riff on an old deep sea diver. Initially developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, recently placing second in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. And yet, it still can't figure out how to hold a broom quite right.

In a video released by the IHMC this week, ATLAS demonstrates a variety of “whole-body coordinated motions." Specifically, a bunch of household cleaning tasks, like vacuuming the square of carpet, sweeping up the Nerf darts, and putting trash into a trashcan and then putting that trashcan on a table. The video shows them at 20 times their normal speed, which highlights just how awkward and inefficient the movements are.

With every task It looks like a human in a giant clumsy suit struggling to complete basic tasks. The Jetson's robotic maid Rosie this certainly isn't. ATLAS isn't built to be a robot housekeeper, which is a job the disk-shaped Roomba robot family does much better anyway. But performing the tasks is still a way to test to see if ATLAS's code is working.

Our first question was why the heck IHMC is teaching ATLAS to clean house, and sadly, the answer is not “because we’re about to announce the availability of that robot butler you’ve always wanted.” Rather, it’s because ATLAS needs to be run often to make sure that code updates don’t break anything, and running the same tasks (like DRC tasks) over and over again gets boring. So, IHMC just came up with a bunch of fun ideas, and tried to get ATLAS to do them, and this is something that they hope to continue to do (yay!).

So not the future of chores, but a pretty cool demonstration anyway. Watch the full video below: