Boston Dynamics: Robot Atlas Does Parkour and Backflips

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After Boston Dynamics was sold in June to Hyundai for more than $1 billion, its robots have become world icons. By taking his dance steps to the sound of the hit by South Korean K-pop band BTS, the dog Spot and his friends showed their surprising abilities.

On Tuesday (17), these skills reached new heights: the US robotics company showed off the humanoid robot Atlas, originally developed with US Department of Defense resources for search and rescue tasks, which has now become an expert in parkour and free running, with or without obstacles.

In the video, Atlas, a 1.52 m tall and 86 kg bipedal robot, uses hydraulic systems, electric motors and his three on-board computers to jump over barriers, to somersault and even crash face-first into the ground during workouts. “It can be frustrating at times. The robots make a lot of hits”, says the team’s control leader, Benjamin Stephens, the “trainer” of the Atlas, to Reuters.

The future challenges of Atlas

According to Boston Dynamics, the purpose of the Atlas is to develop the same movements and flexibility as an average adult, which implies an almost unlimited repertoire of potential applications. In that sense, parkour was chosen as an activity to explore as it highlights several important challenges and skills, according to team leader Scott Kuindersma.

Speaking to Reuters, the engineering and computer science expert explained how the test works: “we connect perception to action in a way that captures long-term goals, like getting from point A to point B, and dynamic short-term goals, how to adjust steps and apply corrective forces to maintain balance”.

Stephens says the most important thing was learning how to build robots capable of falling on their face, surviving, getting up and doing it all over again.

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