Boston Dynamics' Atlas Can Do Parkour Now, Chase You Up Stairs

Boston Dynamic's signature humanoid robot is nimble and fast. 

by James Dennin

People who fear the inevitable robot uprising can take some small comfort in the fact that though robots themselves may be strong, tireless, and impervious to pain, they are still pretty clumsy. They have trouble detecting obstacles and have only surprisingly recently mastered the art of getting up stairs. Or, at least we could take some small comfort in that until yesterday.

We’re of course referring to the recently released footage of Atlas, the invention of the secretive robotics company Boston Dynamics, which depicts Atlas deftly bounding up obstacles in a parkour-like fashion (parkour!). If you were hoping elevation or a tricky ascent were going to be enough to protect you from Atlas’s wrath, think again.

People were quick to point out the Terminator like implications of the technology, including in one particularly representative tweet by the podcast host and popular Twitter user Patrick Monahan.

Atlas is one of the most sophisticated humanoid robots in the world, designed to be able to navigate a situations and landscapes that are designed to accommodate humans. It can flip itself over and pick itself up when it falls down, and carry up to 11 kilograms, according to the Boston Dynamics site. It gets around using a mix of LiDAR and Stereo Vision, and 28 rotating joints.

When Atlas last broke the internet, he wasn’t quite as nimble as he is now, but was still pretty impressive. In the video that went viral during November of last year, Atlas performed a back-flip followed by a similarly intimidating lunge.

While Atlas doesn’t yet have many real-world applications so far, Boston Dynamics is hard at work finding industrial applications for its seeing, bounding robots, incredibly agile robots, particularly in construction. On Thursday the company also released some new footage of the SpotMini, a pup-like robot that’s being trained to navigate construction sites.

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