As impressive as Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot ATLAS moves, it's still not completely free to explore wherever it wants. Thick trunk lines keep it tethered to machinery and pumps that provide power, hyrdraulic fluids, and of course communications and data. But researchers at MIT are now working to free ATLAS of its leash-like umbilical cord sometime in the next six months.

According to Time's Doug Aamoth, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have been working to improve ATLAS' software and programming to make it faster, more reactive, and most importantly more autonomous.

As the official DARPA Robotics Challenge approaches, the researchers are hoping to free ATLAS of the cables that limit its mobility and movement, but also improve its decision making capabilities. Once the challenge starts, the humanoid will hopefully be able to operate fully autonomously for up to 30 seconds should there be a short blackout in communications.


And since the ultimate goal is for this robot to be able to explore environments too dangerous for humans, this is a very important next step in its development. But a scary one too, since there's now one less safety measure keeping ATLAS in check. [Time via Slashgear]