Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Director Arati Prabhakar introduced ‘Atlas,' a military robot that the agency hopes to one day be able to perform tasks as soldiers or first responders, on Tuesday.

Atlas is being developed as part of a $30 million project headed by the Pentagon. The goal is to create a robot that could, in theory, take the place of humans and go into dangerous situations and perform simple, but crucial tasks. For example, if the Fukushima nuclear disaster were to occur again, instead of sending in people to fix a valve or shut off the plant manually, the military could send in a robot to do the same task without risking a life.

Atlas Robot: No 'Iron Man' Yet

Atlas stands at 6-feet tall and 330 pounds, with a body that can withstand being hit with a 20-pound weight. The robot warrior may be impressive in stature, but Atlas is still incredibly limited.

“Great body, not much of a brain yet,” Prabhakar told CBS News.


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Atlas can walk, and even perform basic tasks, but is also extremely slow. When presented with uneven terrain, Atlas becomes shaky, and walks even more slowly than normal. Another hindrance is that Atlas needs to be connected to an elaborate system of wires and cranes, making independent movement impossible.

“It was remote-controlled by many human operators that would plan each step arduously,” Prabhakar explained.

DARPA researchers are quickly learning that the process will be much slower than intended, as every single movement needs to be perfectly programed.

“What we’re learning in the process of this work that we’re doing today is how excruciatingly hard it is still to have the technology to do what seem like very simple things for human beings,” Prabhakar admitted.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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