Boston Dynamics' Atlas Robot Shows Off Parkour Skills

The agile humanoid is learning to use its whole body to leap higher than ever

1 min read
Boston Dynamics' Atlas
Image: Boston Dynamics via YouTube

The remarkable evolution of Atlas, Boston Dynamics’ most agile robot, continues. In a video posted today, Atlas is seen jumping over a log and leaping up steps like a parkour runner.

The robot has come a long way. Two years ago, Boston Dynamics, led by Marc Raibert, unveiled a massive upgrade of the original Atlas, which had been used by multiple teams at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015.

The next-gen Atlas could walk on snow, pick up boxes, and even get up by itself after a fall:

Late last year, after a quiet period, Boston Dynamics surprised everyone with a video that I initially thought was CGI: Atlas jumping up and down boxes and even doing a backflip:

Then earlier this year, a new video showed Atlas running and jumping over obstacles at a park:

And now, parkour.

In a brief description of today’s video, Boston Dynamics explains that the robot is using its full body not only to balance but also to propel itself up the steps:

The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace.  (Step height 40 cm.)  Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.

Compare parkour Atlas to the Atlas from five years ago:

What will Atlas be doing five years from now?

[ Boston Dynamics ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
Horizontal
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less