We love robots here at Inhabitat — from the zero-energy BlueBiped to the first robotic astronaut, they show us how technology can not only benefit us in the present, but also in the future. Robots can also help prevent the unnecessary loss of human life by serving as bomb disposal units and crash-test dummies. Now, the US military is working with Boston Dynamics to develop an anthropomorphic robot that will be used to test new chemical protection clothing.

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The robot, known as PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin), will allow the military to test the effectiveness of new haz-mat suits against chemical agents without using some poor volunteer. The military have used robots in the past for this, but they were always supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion.

Not so with PETMAN. Not only can he balance himself, but he can walk freely as well as crawl and perform a series of calisthenics to test the suits to their limits. PETMAN also simulates human physiology by varying its temperature, humidity and even sweating in order to create the most realistic test conditions possible. (If faced with a possible dirty bomb, I think sweating is the least that I would do.)

With the size, shape and weight of a human (six feet tall and 180 pounds), PETMAN is thus far the most realistic robot created for this purpose.

Currently under development, PETMAN is undergoing a 13 month design phase followed by a 17 month build, installation and validation phase. Boston Dynamics does have experience in this field having created BigDog robot, a four-legged machine that could carry heavy loads and traverse rough terrain. Hopefully, PETMAN will soon be testing the next-generation of haz-mat suits in order to save as many lives as possible.

Click here to see PETMAN in action.

+ Boston Dynamics

Via Information Week