Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics has released new videos featuring the Atlas biped robot. The first quick video features Atlas Robots showing off a gymnastics routine. The robots flip and jump.
However, the second video clip provides an extraordinarily transparent assessment of Atlas’ capabilities. The company’s engineers explain what goes into creating these routines.
The robotics company previously demonstrated how robotic dogs can descend stairs and open doors. Some police departments have started using robot dogs, called Spot, to help with patrols.
Atlas, which the company has dubbed the world’s most dynamic robot, showed in an earlier video how the robot can trot and jump over tree trunks.
As the company has said before, Atlas is essentially a research project and a cutting-edge machine that helps the company’s engineers develop better control and awareness systems.
On a practical level, it’s a platform for us to do research and development,” says Benjamin Stevens, head of control at Atlas. This research includes gymnastics and parkour routines. It is the sport of navigating through obstacles, jumping, and running across uneven platforms.
However, some robotics scientists have criticized the company for misleading people about the capabilities of its devices. Her videos are impressive. But these displays are well thought out with coordinated actions that require a lot of modification.
As Stevens explains in a behind-the-scenes video: Robots don’t always accomplish their skills on the first try. The robot does not decide to do parkour. This is a kind of designed routine, like parkour videos. Where the athlete has practiced these movements dozens or hundreds of times to reach this high level.
In an accompanying blog post, the company’s engineers provide more details about how the robot has changed over the years. They observed that the robot was essentially blind in previous experiments and repeated movements that worked as long as its environment did not change.
But now it relies more on its own perception of navigation, which means it’s less pre-programmed than before.
Boston Dynamics robots can jump better than you
As stated in the post: In this iteration of parkour, the robot adapts behaviors based on what it sees. This means that engineers do not need to pre-program jumping motions for all possible platforms and gaps that a robot may encounter.
This routine took months of development, according to the company, and served as a useful test of the bots’ ability to maintain their balance while switching behaviors and coordinating actions.
As with other recent tests, Atlas now uses visual elements to adapt its movement to the course.
The company has yet to improve on movements that are limited by the nature of the robots themselves, such as the lack of a spine and relatively weak arm joints.
Additionally, the company envisions this parkour practice leading to futuristic assistive robots that can handle a variety of tasks with human-like prowess.