Boston Dynamics' latest Atlas robot struts its stuff

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The latest Atlas robot (second from left) has joined Boston Dynamics' robotic family(Credit: Boston Dynamics)

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Boston Dynamics has showcased its evolving robot family in a new video of the Atlas humanoid robot. At 5.75-ft (175-cm) tall, the latest Atlas is a head shorter than its elder sibling, but it has some new tricks up its sleeve. Not only can the tetherless robot operate under internal power, but it can work indoors and out and boasts greatly improved balance.

According to Boston Dynamics, the new Atlas is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Though shorter than the old Atlas, it has new sensors in its body and legs to help it balance, as well as LIDAR and stereo sensors to help it to avoid obstacles. The company isn't saying much more, but the video does give clues to a number of other improvements, such as a lower center of gravity and a leg architecture similar in function to that of the mountain goat-like Spot robot.

But one might ask what was wrong with the old Atlas? It was already the main robot used by competitors in last year's DARPA Robotics Challenge and wasn't doing too bad – it was cleaning its room and everything.

The answer is in the video below, which shows the new Atlas walking about indoors and out in rough, snowy country. It may have looked like it had one too many in places, but was able to catch its footing impressively after a stumble. It also demonstrated the ability to stack shelves while twisting its body in a remarkably lifelike manner, as well as the capacity to get around using digital labels as navigation markers.

The most dramatic sequences in the video show a human using a hockey stick to knock a box out of the robot's hands, then pushing the box away so the robot has to chase after it. Another shows someone pushing the robot hard in the back, so it falls down. This demonstrates three things: the ability of the robot to adapt to a changing situation, its advanced ability to regain its feet after falling down, and the Boston Dynamics team needs to seriously rethink robot-management relations.

The video below shows the new Atlas strutting its stuff.

View gallery - 7 images
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