A rare behind-the-scenes look at Boston Dynamics' acrobatic robots

A rare behind-the-scenes look ...
Two new videos offer the most complex Atlas parkour routine to date and take us behind the scenes of this influential robotics company
Two new videos offer the most complex Atlas parkour routine to date and take us behind the scenes of this influential robotics company
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Two new videos offer the most complex Atlas parkour routine to date and take us behind the scenes of this influential robotics company
Two new videos offer the most complex Atlas parkour routine to date and take us behind the scenes of this influential robotics company

New videos from Boston Dynamics present its famous Atlas robot performing the most complex parkour routine seen to date, while also offering a rare glimpse behind the scenes of this groundbreaking robotic company.

From dancing to taking a jog through the woods, the rapid evolution of Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot has been incredible to follow over the past few years. These frequent short videos have been impressive but often frustratingly lacking in any real detail. Now the company is offering some of the first behind-the-scenes insights into how it develops its robots, and why parkour is a useful way to train humanoid robots.

Atlas | Partners in Parkour

The new parkour video (above) shows a pair of Atlas robots moving through a series of complex actions. Unlike previous videos which focused on single acrobatic movements, this video demonstrates the robots’ ability to navigate a variety of dynamic challenges.

“It’s really about creating behaviors at the limits of the robot’s capabilities and getting them all to work together in a flexible control system,” explains Scott Kuindersma, team lead on the Atlas project.

An accompanying video takes us behind the scenes to deliver a rare look at how these videos are produced. The Inside the lab video shows several Atlas failures, reminding us of the work it takes to get these robots performing the extraordinary feats shown in previous videos.

The video also helps answer a question often leveled at Boston Dynamics. What is the ultimate goal of this work?

Inside the lab: How does Atlas work?

“The work that we’re doing now I view as just foundation building,” Kuindersma says. “We’re building the core capabilities that we think any useful robot will need, and in doing so we’re really defining the next set of challenges we’ll be working on for the next two to five years.”

Atlas is still fundamentally a research and development project and there is no current indication Atlas is being built for direct commercial outcomes. But instead, the project informs broader engineering insights that can help direct some of Boston Dynamics’ other, more commercially driven outcomes.

The company last year finally produced its first commercial robotic product. Spot, its dog-like robot, was commercially launched with a price tag of around US$75,000. More recently Boston Dynamics has presented a robot developed explicitly for warehouse work called Stretch.

Source: Boston Dynamics

So, what do we need to render these inop? EMP grenades?
I liked the behind the scenes video because it helps temper expectations of people who think these things are basically ready to throw on an Applebees polo and show up to work tomorrow or grab a rifle and go join the ranks of armed forces like a sci-fi movie. The actual reality is that it takes 5-6 teams of people months of work to assemble a minute of footage for youtube. They have a warehouse of replacement parts and even redesign parts on the fly to solve the task. People think these things are going to go assist the military but the reality is even as far as they have come it would probably take 100 high paid experts with truckloads of spare parts and tools to get one of these things to carry a backpack 300 meters across rough terrain.
I am in awe at their achievements while at the same time slightly scared at the future possibilities.
Impressive and insightful. Taking a hard outside look at this, seems to me, these need skin! Seeing the damaged robots, I could see a lot less damage with a bouncy protective covering, say some highly absorbent gel, something like some smart phone cases use, tech21 is doing some cool things. I could see each section of skin contain "air holes" throughout as needed to keep things cool and accessible.
It doesn't't look quite right. Like old, poor, computer animation.
These engineers have one of the best jobs in the world! I guess the next step, now the hardware and control algorithms are well advanced, will be to focus on on-board problem-solving routines. The development of a level of autonomy in the units, allowing them to plan optimum routes and behaviours, will enhance their value as tools immensely.
Simply astonishing how far we've come so quickly.
That is a terrible video. Looks over produced and as someone mentioned looks to be CGI. I realize it is not, but people should know their audience and know what they are trying to get across. Why make a video that looks fake even if it's not???? In short, that video does not due the Atlas justice. Way to go Boston Dynamics. (but please find a better video director.)
Douglas Rogers
I am going out to unstick Robomow!
Get them some boxing gloves! Now that would be worth watching..
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