Video: Advanced humanoid does chores ... slowly

The second-place finisher at the DARPA Robotics Challenge teaches its bot to clean house.

A little levity for a Friday morning. A video from The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), which placed second at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, shows Atlas doing some light housework.

The video is choppy because it's been sped up 20X. Robots with as many degrees of freedom as Atlas (28) still aren't that efficient at performing complex manipulation tasks on-the-fly. But it's a fun demonstration of a capable robot's potential.

The six-foot humanoid was built by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA. IMHC developed the control algorithms for their bot. In the video, manipulation tasks include folding up a ladder, vacuuming, and sweeping.

In an interview with IEEE Spectrum's Evan Ackerman, IHMC research associate John Carff explains that Atlas isn't running entirely autonomously here.

I'm not simply sitting there with a joystick teleoperating the robot: I tell the robot through the UI that I want to grab a bottle off the table by clicking the bottle and making sure that the resulting hand is in the correct place. Then, the robot tells me how it's going to move its entire body to reach that location, through a preview in the UI. If I'm okay with the plan the robot has come up with, I tell it to execute that motion. In the future, I can see a lot of what was done in this video moving more to the autonomous side, but I always see there being a human in the loop.

For those hoping that a life without chores is just a few development years away, the video might be a little disappointing. The tasks this robot is performing are amazing from an engineering standpoint, but for the time being a machine can't hold a candle to you when it comes to cleaning your room.