Boston Dynamics’ Next Humanoid Robot is Pure Body Horror

Atlas is back from the dead.

Boston Dynamics' new and improved Atlas robot
Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics hit everyone with a curve ball when it announced the retirement of its long-standing humanoid robot Atlas, only to introduce its next-gen model a few days later. Along with a redesigned, sleeker, look, the Atlas 2.0 is fully electric instead of being hydraulic like its predecessor. Gone is Atlas’ bulky chest and replaced by a design that resembles a friendly stick figure.

More importantly, Boston Dynamics wants to push what its humanoid robot is capable of doing, down to how it fundamentally moves. The new Atlas may feel even creepier now that it can twist and contort its legs, torso, and head independently, reawakening the terror we felt when watching old-school body horror movies. Just take a look at how this thing stands up and you’ll understand.

More than a Humanoid

As creepy as that may look, it’s supposed to be more efficient. For a better idea, Boston Dynamics says that Atlas will be “stronger, with a broader range of motion than any of our previous generations” and “will move in ways that exceed human capabilities.” With that, it sounds like the robotics company wants to steer Atlas away from the humanoid side and lean more into the robot part.

To elaborate, Boston Dynamics says, “Atlas may resemble a human form factor, but we are equipping the robot to move in the most efficient way possible to complete a task, rather than being constrained by a human range of motion.”

Looking at how the new Atlas gets up from a prone position on its back tells you a lot. When it comes to making the most efficient movements possible, it could make more sense for Atlas to swivel its torso around 180 degrees to reach something rather than having to turn its entire body like a human would. This new philosophy is a notable departure from the previous Atlas, which felt like it was uncannily imitating how a human would move. Still, this shift should open up way more capabilities for the upcoming Atlas.

Farewell, Atlas 1.0, we’ll never forget you and your blooper reels.

Boston Dynamics

A Life Beyond the Factory Floor

With the reveal of Atlas, Boston Dynamics says we’ll have to be patient when it comes to commercializing its next-gen robot. The company is planning to deliver a whole ecosystem based on Atlas, which means working on software, additional services, and support. It’s more likely that the next-gen Atlas will make its way to companies first, especially since Boston Dynamics plans to use Hyundai’s manufacturing platform as a testing ground. That makes a lot of sense considering Boston Dynamic’s robot dog Spot has found its home with commercial use.

Still, the robotics company hinted at expanding Atlas beyond that, since it would be used “in the lab, in the factory, and in our lives.” That’s no confirmation that Atlas could be tailored for home use, but there’s nothing to suggest that it couldn’t take on a role as robo-butler. Just don’t be surprised if Atlas starts spider-walking down the stairs in the name of efficiency.

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