Boston Dynamics has released yet another fascinating/terrifying video – this time featuring its bipedal Atlas robot – which may very well herald the demise of humanity. Cutting straight through a parkour obstacle course like a hot knife would through cold butter, this T-1000 in the making represents some remarkable progress.
“At a practical level, it’s a platform for us to do R&D on,” explains Atlas Control Lead Benjamin Stephens.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine… much like a skateboard video or a parkour video.”
Previously, similar Boston Dynamics robots were essentially operating blind, executing programmed moves tailored to a predetermined environment. Even the slightest change would have disrupted its flow and almost certainly spelled failure.
This time around, however, and much to our anxiety, there’s actually an element of actual real-time perception in its navigation system. In other words, eventually, we won’t be able to stop them from free-roaming.
“In this iteration of parkour, the robot is adapting behaviours in its repertoire based on what it sees,” reads the accompanying blog post.
“This means the engineers don’t need to pre-program jumping motions for all possible platforms and gaps the robot might encounter.”
“Instead, the team creates a smaller number of template behaviours that can be matched to the environment and executed online.”
“We’re exploring how to push it to its limits, sometimes operating at those limits,” adds Stephens.
“We learn a lot from that in terms of how to build robots that can survive falling on their face and getting back up and doing it again.”
Initially unveiled back in 2013, the Atlas was designed for Search & Rescue tasks. With a height of 1.5 metres and a total weight of approximately 86kg, this battery-powered humanoid is hydraulically actuated with 28 degrees of freedom.
Check out the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot take on a parkour obstacle above (and some behind-the-scenes insights regarding its journey to present-day below).