Boston Dynamics 'Atlas' Robot Can Do Backflips Like a Pro

Thursday, 16 November 2017 - 8:33PM
Technology
Robotics
Thursday, 16 November 2017 - 8:33PM
Boston Dynamics 'Atlas' Robot Can Do Backflips Like a Pro
Boston Dynamics
There's a good chance you've seen the Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics before. Do you remember that viral video of a bipedal robot getting pushed around by humans who kept rudely knocking a box from its hands? That poor sucker was Atlas.

Not to encourage more tough love from Boston Dynamics toward their robots, but Atlas has improved significantly since that video last year. Instead of just stumbling around trying to balance itself, Atlas is now capable of some basic but impressive acrobatics.

The most impressive of which is a full backflip which ends in Atlas throwing up its robotic hands in success. Seriously, watch this thing move:



The video is mostly a series of jumps and turns that any amateur gymnast could pull off, but that's all just buildup to the backflip at the end. And of course, since it's well known that people like seeing robots fall over, the video ends with an outtake that shows Atlas missing a jump by that much before toppling over. But that's how lots of people look after they attempt parkour.

This marks the second video from Boston Dynamics in the past week, after their new-and-improved dog robot, SpotMini, was seen galloping around the premises without a head (it's honestly less creepy than the description makes it sound). They'd been quiet since their previous parent company, Alphabet - which is also Google's parent company - sold them to Japanese company SoftBank, so it's good to see they've still been busy.

There's no immediate use to having a robot who can do backflips, beyond being cool, but Boston Dynamics is largely focused on pushing the capabilities of robotic movement, by creating weird machines who can run and jump around different environments without losing their footing. Other companies might create robots who patrol malls or operate elevators, but Boston Dynamics seems to be going for a more well-rounded machine.

But there's tons of uses for parkour robots down the line, and assuming they don't turn evil and start wall-running after us, they'd be handy droids to send into dangerous environments for rescue missions and the like. And as Boston Dynamics loves to keep showing us, they can handle some punishment, which would be essential for those sorts of tasks.



In the meantime, don't be surprised if human parkour enthusiasts start losing out to parkour-bots, as Atlas is learning quickly. Much later down the line, we might start seeing the robot appear on American Ninja Warrior if it keeps up this progress.
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