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Boffins' PETMAN robot mimics human gym rats

Does pushups, walks, squats, and sweats

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Engineers at Boston Dynamics are showing off its PETMAN robot as it does calisthenics and simulates the actions of everyday soldiers.

The PETMAN robot, which stands for Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin, is capable of walking and running, performing pushups and squat thrusts, and mimics the breathing patterns, heat output, and perspiration put out by a soldier performing similar exercises.

The purpose of the machine is to test the effectiveness of chemical and biological warfare suits, but the company can also see other uses.

"There are all sorts of things robots like PETMAN could be used for. Any place that has been designed for human access, mobility, or manipulation skills,” the company’s vice president of engineering Dr. Robert Playter told IEEE Spectrum.

“Places like the Fukushima reactors could be accessed by PETMAN-like robots, without requiring any human exposure to hazardous materials. Perhaps firefighting inside of buildings or facilities designed for human access, like on board ships designed for human crews."

Currently the robot is a tethered unit, capable of walking at 4.4 miles an hour and going through a range of physical moves – although its pushups look even shakier than a Reg journalist after the summer party. The company is planning to add a human-like head, but is still fine-tuning neck articulation.

Boston Dynamics, a spin-off from MIT, has already been selling the military on its robotics, with the BigDog platform. BigDog is a four legged robot pack animal, capable of hauling luggage for a day, albeit with too much noise to make it an effective combat droid. ®

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