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