“Atlas does parkour,” Boston Dynamics wrote in the video description. Footage shows Atlas nimbly leaping over a log and skipping between platforms of different heights “without breaking its pace,” according to the description.
As Atlas navigates the challenges of the obstacle course, a slow-motion sequence emphasizes the precision in its movements as it leaps between platforms, each one measuring about 16 inches (40 centimeters) high. Software and vision sensors control Atlas’s navigation, according to the video description — nevertheless, the robot’s coordination seem remarkably humanlike for a machine.
Described on the Boston Dynamics website as “the world’s most dynamic humanoid,” Atlas has a four-limbed, bipedal frame that would invite comparison to the human body regardless of how the robot moved. But in a series of videos released over the last few years, Atlas demonstrates mobility this is uncannily human: recovering after being shoved, performing backflips, jogging over a grassy field and practicing robot parkour.
The prospect of a humanoid robot that can leap, backflip and bound after you over rugged terrain is unsettling enough, but Atlas’s creators at Boston Dynamics keep pushing the bot toward ever more ambitious gymnastic achievements.
The eerily humanoid robot, called Atlas, is 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs 165 pounds (75 kilograms), and uses Lidar and stereovision to navigate in its surroundings, according to Boston Dynamics, which makes the robot. Atlas is designed to be able to take on emergency situations where human life would normally be put at risk, such as going into buildings that have crumbled after an earthquake, or dealing with patients who have deadly, highly infectious diseases, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Atlas has other human-like abilities, such as a sense of balance, so it resists toppling when pushed, and can get back up after a fierce shove.
The current version of Atlas isn’t yet as agile as the average human; when it walks, it uses an awkward gait resembling a person who really, really has to get to a bathroom. And though it can travel over rough terrain, video seems to show it stumbling where a human might be fine.
Still, the current version of Atlas is a dramatic improvement over its ancestors: In 2013, when it first debuted at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, Atlas weighed 330 lbs. (150 kg) and required a cord for power, Technology Review reported at the time.