PETMAN robot to closely simulate soldiers (w/ Video)

April 27, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

( -- A freely walking biped robot the size and shape of a human being is being developed to realistically simulate a soldier wearing protective clothing.

The , PETMAN (from Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin), is being developed by Boston Dynamics for the US Army for testing chemical protection clothing. The anthropomorphic robot will be able to balance itself while walking, crawling, doing calisthenics, and generally moving freely like a human while being exposed to chemical warfare agents.

At its current stage the robot resembles a box on legs, but in its final form it will closely resemble a person, having “the shape and size of a standard human,” according to VP of Engineering at Boston Dynamics, Robert Playter. When completed, PETMAN will be the first anthropomorphic robot to move dynamically like a real person, Playter said. The army also wanted the robot to simulate physiological responses inside the suit, such as sweating, temperature and humidity control, and even breathing, to even more realistically simulate a soldier wearing a protective suit.

The prototype robot walks heel-to-toe just like a human, and remains balanced even when pushed. In tests it has achieved a fast walking speed of 4.4 mph walking on a moving . PETMAN’s walking algorithm and the mechanical design are based on a previous Boston Dynamics robot known as Big Dog, which is designed for carrying supplies over almost any terrain.

Like its predecessor, the PETMAN robot has a hydraulic actuation system and articulated legs with shock-absorbing elements. The robot is under the control of an on-board computer and an array of sensors and internal monitoring systems.

The 13-month developmental period will be followed by 17 months of building, installation, and validation. Delivery of the completed and tested robot is expected some time in 2011. Boston Dynamics is a small company that spun off MIT in 1992. It specializes in robotics, with many of its projects being for military applications. Measurement Technology Northwest, Midwest Research Institute (MRI), Smith Carter CUH2A (SCC) and HHI Corporation are all partners in the PETMAN project.

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More information: PETMAN page:

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2 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2010
Wow - another game changer -

Combine this with the algorithms already known to the public to exist - such as ability to detect fire from a hostile source -- with these disguised as men and walking among our troops they could provide cover for the men in the open, detect where incoming fire is coming from and retaliate.

To limit these automotons to just testing and chemical agents is a true waste of there potential on the field.

I love it.
3 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2010
I'm sorry, 'Pet Man'? Great technology, poor choice of name, unless they're trying to get the Luddites all riled up.
3.5 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2010
El Nose, still one missing component: power source. I'm sure we would've had mechanized robots long ago had it not been for that.

Where are you, Iron Man?
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
"The army also wanted the robot to simulate physiological responses inside the suit, such as sweating, temperature and humidity control, and even breathing, to even more realistically simulate a soldier wearing a protective suit."

Why do I feel reminded of this line from The Terminator:

"The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human... sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot."

'PETMAN' was obviously chosen as an acronym so it sounds as non-threatening as possible (as do all the words in the acronmym itself..'protection' ...'mannequin'...oh my)

Sometimes I really hate the military. (OK, delete that 'sometimes')
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2010
Sometimes I really hate the military. (OK, delete that 'sometimes')

2 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2010
"realistically simulate a soldier wearing a protective suit"

Yeah, right, more like hook up to a keyboard and joystick and remotely smack Hadji in the mouth.
2.3 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010

Is there anything to love about people who contemplate killing others?

As a scientist (and an engineer) it makes me ashamed that some of my 'brethren' would even contemplate working for such outfits - no matter the monetary benefits.
3.9 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010

Is there anything to love about people who contemplate killing others?

As a scientist (and an engineer) it makes me ashamed that some of my 'brethren' would even contemplate working for such outfits - no matter the monetary benefits.

I'm having a hard time understanding how you could possibly equate those who fight to protect their society from those who kill for money/fun/religion/psychosis/whatever. Huge difference. Violence in the cause of peace is not an oxymoron - its a requirement in world in which we are all imperfect.
4.4 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010

Is there anything to love about people who contemplate killing others?

As a scientist (and an engineer) it makes me ashamed that some of my 'brethren' would even contemplate working for such outfits - no matter the monetary benefits.

Do you feel the same about police? Or about big brothers that protect their smaller siblings? or about parents that protect their children? or about people that stand up to bullies? Would you have a free society lie down and be taken over by bad guys? To hate everything about the military makes no sense whatsoever. There ARE bad guys out there and our free societies have to protect our citizens and the military is how we do it. If it weren't for the allied forces in WWII, we'd either be all Nazis or under the old Japanese imperial army. No telling what evils would have evolved to this time had Hitler been allowed to pursue his desire to take over everything. I contemplate how to kill home invaders should the need ever arise.
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
Yea simulate all those packs so they cn identify exactly what agents and weapons will affect their new robot soldiers...
2.8 / 5 (9) Apr 27, 2010
'Fighting to protect' is just a euphemism. What they really are is the bodyguards for the biggest bullies on the block. There is no difference here.

I expect scientists and engineers to understand that by having weapons you DONT make the world a safer place (I have given up on others being able to grasp this). But these groups should have the necessary brainpower to make the connection.

'Fighting for peace' is a short-term non-solution. Leading by _peaceful_ example (as in parenting) is the long term REAL solution.

Keeping up a military completely blocks that and we'll always live in fear. Violence (no matter with what intention) begets only more violence.
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
Antialias, you sound like someone that hasn't had to sacrifice a whole lot in your life. If someone came to your house and started taking everything you own, I suspect you wouldn't just stand there and let them do it.

Also, your anger is misguided. An overwhelming majority of military members don't WANT to be fighting a war. They do what they're told by leadership, by the President, on faith that he has a greater understanding and a more complete picture than they do. If you don't like the world the way it is, tell your senator.

In a realistic world, it's impossible for perfect equality in society. As such, you can be guaranteed that only the dead have seen the end of war
3.6 / 5 (9) Apr 27, 2010
They do what they're told by leadership, by the President, on faith that he has a greater understanding and a more complete picture than they do.

Great. So they are basically hitmen for whoever is in charge. That inspires my confidence. Not.

Someone who hands his brain in at the door and effectively says: "Tell me whom to shoot and I'll do it - no questions asked" does not command my respect, sorry.

The type of robotic research above basically leads to mechanized/robotic soldiers which make wars ever more palatable (the only reasons more wars aren't waged is because some soldiers come home in bodybags - and that might swing some voters the other way).

No, I have no confidence that politicians have a 'greater understanding' or are looking out for the 'good of the people'.

Giving them puppets that ask even _less_ questions than the current crop of brain-washed military dolts? Not a brilliant strategy.
2.8 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010
Is there anything to love about people who contemplate killing others?

All humans in all of evolution have contemplated killing others. Every ONE, Even you! Killing was mandated by nature, enjoyed by your enemies, justified by the church, subsidized by the aristocracy and mandated by the military. Only since Allies destroyed the Nazis and the Man-Diety mentality of Japanese military; only since America politically castrated the delusional 'Communist' oligarchies; and now America and a few allies, with a historically unprecedented, minimal degree of violence, are pacifying the religious lunatics by giving their subjugated masses total access to information.
'Dozing' you are as the first true attempt at eliminating historically rampant mass murder takes a step up the ladder of peace. Go back to myopic dozing, but feel free to be as stupid and arrogant as you like in a world where, for the first time, your idiocy is tolerated.
5 / 5 (10) Apr 27, 2010
I think a couple of Ewoks could take that thing down with a log or two.
4 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010

I think most people agree with you in spirit just not in reality. Much like Communism is great on paper but makes for a purely corrupt government.

Ant I think you will agree Hitler had to be stopped. and it is for these needs that militaries are formed- and the main reason is protection of sovergnty being able to protect and defend you own borders is the true purpose of the beast.

Unfortunately we, the US, are fighting wars in other coutries in hopes to defer war on our shores and everyone from the top down recognizes it is futile except McCain and rqw

You are right we should strive for peace- but not at the cost of our children being enslaved. And while that statement might seem radical and outdated make no mistake slavery still exists on this planet and not as a metaphor.

Honestly why did everyone jump on this guys back for stating he is for peace. weren't we talking about the applications of the robotic
Sadistic Animalistic Targeted Killing Others Machine ;-)
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
Just to be clear: We don't fight for "peace". We fight for "freedom"... Peace is easily achieved by surrender.

El_Nose is right. You have to have militaries to stop the Hitlers of the world. Not sure why El_Nose said that everyone but McCain recognizes our current wars are futile. I certainly don't believe that. But man, we are WAAAAY off topic now. :)
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2010
@rqw - are you picking on me with those "dozing" jabs? I think we are on the same side here.

@antialias_physorg - I suspect you are high school or college aged. As such, I am tempted to say "come back in 20 years and see if you feel the same", but I won't, because I just don't care THAT much about what you think. But, while you may be a useful idiot for some, you are just dangerous to me.

If you are truely pacifistic, I would respect you - but you're not. You are another one of those "we just need the right benevolent dictator" types. No thanks. I'll take my messy and needs to be protected freedom over your peace at the price of no freedom.
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
so you just effectively every single veteran there is in the world....
Here's the thing...they have a thing called a PRISON TERM, which you do if you dont follow your orders (assuming the orders were important enough, such as a black ops mission)....

I myself am ex infantry, and went there with the specific goal of going to war...MOST infantry soldiers do, its entrenched so deeply into our brain that there's not much else to think about (since it is our job there)....I agree with the statement earlier though that many soldiers dont want to go to just doesnt apply to infantry since without war, they dig holes...

If you think the soldiers coming home in body bags have any real influence on whether or not to go to war, or how often, you are sadly mistaken. Uncle Sam need only to reinstitute the draft to get as many soldiers as he wants...
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2010
Dozer... Sorry if I misread. Getting old and short tempered, if not senile. Slowly dying of congential heart defect, (in spite of the open heart surgeries) after an extremely interesting life and eight kids and five grandkids so far. No chance to be a hero, just a grumpy old man who can not even wish for changes in his past as the consequences of such wishes/changes on the future of his children are too terrifying to contemplate.
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2010
A=jump, B=duck, X=use, LT=aim, RT=shoot.
Give this robot and xbox controller to few million kids and none would be the wiser. Scary..... Can't wait for that old, scared, generation to die off.
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
What an interesting discussion...
It seems like the flouridation program is working...
The point that got everyone excited was the suggestion that support of the military was indirectly support for war...
Now basically as a species on this planet, if we cant get over killing each other, i dont think we will last much longer. Oh yeah, then we get armies of robots to fight the wars for us... yeah that will work...

1.3 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2010
Hmm, a functional algorithm for walking etc, get enough of those and some serious computing power and we will have a Terminator/Cylon.

In my opinion, the reasons we don't have a suitable long term power source yet are because one it would upset the oil industry and two it would have to be invented at a time when it fitted in with other technology or it would be obvious it was alien technology.
3 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2010
two Bloom boxes - each the size of a grapefruit - could wirelessly power a US home, fully replacing the power grid; one box could power a European home.
give it just 1-3 yrs, anything that can power a house can power a car and really power a exo-suit or robot.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2010
Two Bloom boxes, each the size of a grapefruit, would still require fuel to run. Unfortunately, even bloom boxes can't turn air into power... yet. Either way, I'm excited to see how effecient Bloom Energy can get their devices to run!
5 / 5 (2) May 01, 2010
I'll chime in, in support of antialias_physorg. I do believe that a viable and functional military must be maintained, as a weapon of last resort for the purposes of SELF-defense. However, that's not what our current military does, nor what it had done ever since the end of WWII.

The U.S. has by far the world's largest and most expensive "peace-time" military on the planet. And they're "defending our freedom" in all the oil-producing countries of the world. Any place that isn't producing large quantities of oil, no matter how oppressed and genocidal otherwise, doesn't get entangled in "our freedom" and isn't on our geopolitical radar. But those that are indeed oil-rich, must be inexorably subjected to U.S.-sanctioned despotism. When, after a few decades of rape and pillage, they finally get riled up and murderously pissed off, and lash out at us in retaliation, we go in deeper still and "protect our freedoms" even harder. Rinse, repeat. How very noble of us, to be so "free".
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2010
It's also worthwhile to know that a decade of warfare in Afghanistan ultimately bankrupted and politically undermined the Soviet Union to the point of its disintegration.

Now, almost a decade of warfare in Afghanistan is bringing the U.S. no closer to resolving the mess. We find ourselves supporting a corrupt government dependent on an opium-fueled economy. In the meantime, our nation is going bankrupt, and squandering world-wide every ounce of political capital it has earned over the previous century.

Meanwhile the nation truly at the root of the problem -- Saudi Arabia -- which is the origin of Al Qaeda's vendetta against the West, and the sponsor of extremist Wahhabi Islamic indoctrination schools world-wide, remains our staunchest ally in the Middle East second only to Israel -- the other flaming torch in the Muslim beehive, and the epicenter of the modern resurrected Crusade for geopolitical control of the Middle East by the West.

Let's just cry "freedom", and avoid thinking.
1 / 5 (1) May 02, 2010
The picture is flawed. Obviously the artist is not familiar with engineering or mechanics.

The power and data cable is attached to the heel. This causes excessive wear on the cable, an asymmetric and chaotic moment on the feet, and loses energy by dangling violently during fast walking.

A real scientist would of course attach the cable in the back, somewhere between the neck and the waist.

I hope the artist, Lin Edwards, isn't on PhysOrg payroll.
May 03, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
A real scientist would of course attach the cable in the back, somewhere between the neck and the waist.

Agree with your issue with the artest's depiction, disagree with your preferred location, as it would result in a non neutral stance (the pull and weight of the power/data lines would make it have to compensate mechanically).

Better to have it in a place that would be neutral in terms of balance impact. That leaves 2 places - top of the head or straight down from the groin area, between the legs.

Please, let it be from the top of the head!

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