Anything But Property

This Jumping Robot Has ‘Rise of the Machines’ Written All Over It

Boston Dynamics has made a name for itself creating some truly incredible two and four-legged robots – but its latest update is causing some mild panic in comments sections across the internet.

Earlier this month, Boston Dynamics unveiled a clip of its Atlas bot, a bipedal robot with almost humanoid features. The video shows the robot clearing a series of elevated blocks by leaping effortlessly from one to another. But the part causing concern is the final showpiece – the bot stands backwards on one of the elevated platforms, before performing a flawless backflip off it onto the ground, landing cleanly and showing how close humanity is coming to mimicking the plot of the 2004 blockbuster, I, Robot.

The technology behind upright robots has been remarkably hard to perfect – but it seems Boston Dynamics has finally mastered. It’s also been notoriously difficult to have robots perform simple tasks like going up or down stairs. Huge balance and coordination is required to even take a single step to a different level. Atlas can not only go up and down stairs, it can leap up and over blocks, and perform a backwards somersault that would impress any Olympic panel – truly an impressive feat.

Atlas also has a number of other impressive capabilities. It can manipulate objects in its environment, as well as being able to analyze and travel over rough terrain. If Atlas is jostled, it can maintain its balance perfectly – and it can even get up independently if it is knocked or pushed over, as demonstrated in a video released in 2016, showing the earlier iteration of Atlas.

Boston Dynamics has built a reputation for robots with amazing skills – and not all of them are as terrifying as the humanoid parkour robot, Atlas. Earlier this month it also unveiled its quadrupedal robot, Spot Mini – a bot with distinctly canine characteristics, which can help with household chores and, yes, climb up stairs.

Amazingly (or concerningly, depending on how you view it), Spot Mini has a face recognition system, allowing it to identify its ‘masters’ and unwelcome guests. It can also pick up and handle objects, and it has a full sensor suite to help with navigation. Boston Dynamics believe that every home or office will have one of these little pals in the future – but it seems the bottom half of the internet might need a little convincing, first.


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Alex Wright, Editor