Boston Dynamics' new video shows off its research robot's exceptional, and slightly terrifying, parkour abilities. In the viral video, the robot, named Atlas, walks across a warehouse floor, picks up items, skips up stairs, jumps, tosses items, and even does a backflip.
Atlas's advanced robotic features and abilities, including its 28 hydraulic joints, 5.6 mph speed, real-time perception, and model-predictive control, have earned the robot viral status before. However, in those videos Atlas was missing something pretty vital to human function -- hands.
"We're not just thinking about how to make the robot move dynamically through its environment like we did in parkour and dance," said Scott Kuindersma, Atlas team lead in a behind-the-scenes video. "Now we're starting to put Atlas to work and think about how the robot should be able to perceive and manipulate objects in its environment."
In the viral video, Atlas flaunts his new grippers by picking up a slab of wood and setting it on another surface, lifting a bag, and tossing it to a construction worker, before pushing a large wooden block off a ramp.
The ability to manipulate objects in its environment is a vital skill for a humanoid robot to have since current work environments are suited for humans. For a humanoid robot to excel in those environments, they need to resemble a human as much as possible.
"A humanoid robot will be well suited for applications like manufacturing, factory work, construction, where a humanoid form factor actually fits very well with its bimanual nature, its ability to stand upright, move heavy things around, and work in spaces that were traditionally designed for humans," says Kuindersma.