Robotics

Seven eerily lifelike robot maneuvers that will have you eyeing the off switch

Seven eerily lifelike robot ma...
Ford's two-legged robot called Digit would travel to a customer’s address in a self-driving vehicle before hopping out to drop the package at the door
Ford's two-legged robot called Digit would travel to a customer’s address in a self-driving vehicle before hopping out to drop the package at the door
View 7 Images
Ford's two-legged robot called Digit would travel to a customer’s address in a self-driving vehicle before hopping out to drop the package at the door
1/7
Ford's two-legged robot called Digit would travel to a customer’s address in a self-driving vehicle before hopping out to drop the package at the door
The Atlas robot goes for a jog
2/7
The Atlas robot goes for a jog
Being a stuntman is dangerous business, so why not employ a robot to do the job instead? 
3/7
Being a stuntman is dangerous business, so why not employ a robot to do the job instead? 
Ten SpotMini bots pull a small truck
4/7
Ten SpotMini bots pull a small truck
The Atlas robot prepares for a backflip
5/7
The Atlas robot prepares for a backflip
MIT's Cheetah robot can detect and hop over obstacles
6/7
MIT's Cheetah robot can detect and hop over obstacles
MIT's Mini Cheetah robot can do backflips
7/7
MIT's Mini Cheetah robot can do backflips

Advances in robotics are a constant, but every now and then the ingenuity of researchers crystallizes in lifelike maneuvers that are as awe-inspiring as they are terrifying. Here we take a look at seven recent examples that will do the sleeping habits of those fearing a robotic apocalypse more harm than good.

It won't surprise the folks who follow this space closely that the handiwork of Boston Dynamics features quite prominently here. But also making appearances are machines from MIT a high-flying robotic trapeze artist and a humanoid delivery man. Let's dive in, while we still can.

MIT's robotic Cheetah makes the leap

First out of the blocks is MIT's bounding robotic Cheetah, which in 2015 gained the ability to detect and leap over obstacles in its path. The quadrupedal robot uses an onboard LIDAR system to monitor laser reflections and map its terrain, and then an algorithm to calculate the force needed from its electric motors and clear hurdles. It can even adjust its stride if need be. Skip to 1:00 below to see it clear a series of obstacles. Might be time to build a taller front fence.

MIT cheetah robot lands the running jump

MIT's Mini Cheetah does backflips

MIT's Mini Cheetah might be the smaller sidekick to the robot described above, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve that could see it steal a share of the spotlight. Among those are gracefully executed backflips, which the researchers say made it the first four-legged robot to perform such a feat when it was first shown off in March this year. Check it out at the very start of the video below.

Backflipping MIT Mini Cheetah

When robots do gymnastics

If you think the balance demonstrated by the four-legged Mini Cheetah is impressive, then check out the antics of this two-legged humanoid. Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot had previously shown off some impressive capabilities, but it really got our attention in 2017 with a newfound ability to nail a perfect backflip. Check it out below. 10/10.

What's new, Atlas?

Run for your life

While acrobatics are cool, they perhaps don't instill the fear that a robot charging mercilessly after an unsighted victim might. This video from May last year shows the Atlas robot taking a casual jog through the woods, showing an ability to navigate uneven terrain and jump over logs. Is he in pursuit of fitness goals or blood? You decide.

Getting some air, Atlas?

Can I get a tow?

Who needs to call a truck when you've got 10 of Boston Dynamics SpotMinis on the job? In April this year, the company marked its move into commercial operations by showing a herd of its robotic dogs pulling a truck across a parking lot. An impressive show of power and robotic collaboration. Team work makes the dream work.

Mush, Spot, Mush!

Robotic stuntman

Being a stuntman is dangerous business, so why not employ a robot to do the job instead? This is the thinking behind Disney's Stuntronics humanoid robot. It can be flicked into the air like a trapeze artist and use a suite of sensors to tuck, roll, complete a couple of backflips before unfurling for the landing. It can also strike a superhero-like pose through the air. See its eerily human-like acrobatics below.

Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles

The last legs

There's a lot happening in the world of self-driving vehicles, including how they can streamline operations for courier companies. But what if every inch of the delivery process could be automated? This is the thinking behind a recent project from Ford and Agility Robotics, which led to a two-legged robot called Digit that would travel to a customer's address in a self-driving vehicle before hopping out to drop the package at the door. It can navigate obstacles, walk up and down stairs and even maintain balance if something bumps into it.

Digit: Future of Self-Driving Vehicle Delivery | The Future of Ford and Transportation | Ford

5 comments
Tom Swift
...and this is how you get Skynet....
piperTom
There's no need for the drama of skynet. See "With Folded Hands" from 1947! Robots will take over the doing of anything physically hard, anything tedious, then anything even slightly dangerous... such as police work. Then, [somehow], unnecessary risk will become illegal. So, there you are... you can play video games or take a walk (with supervision)... with folded hands.
WayneHennebury
Yet another way for big greedy corporations to put people out of work.
Wolf0579
Number five is ALIVE! OK, when we have all been relieved of work, WHO WILL HAVE MONEY TO BUY THE CORPORATIONS WARES?
Rustin Lee Haase
all these robots only sound like a good idea if *EVERYONE* has a significant number of them working for *THEM*. It's OK if a robot takes away your job if you own that robot. Then you get the revenue it generates and are free to do other things. If big corporations/governments/etc. own all the robots, then it's dystopian.