Watch as Boston Dynamics lets a robot off its leash


Google may be making the technological brains of the future but it is companies like Boston Dynamics that are making the bodies of our future robot overlords. The robotics company is at it again, showing off some of the advances they’re seeing in robotic movement. Back in the spotlight? Atlas and SpotMini.

SpotMini, last we checked in on it (him. Er… them), was able to work out how to open doors and let other robots through, thwarting our cunning plans to avoid the robot rebellion by simple going inside away from them. We would have hoped that SpotMini would have kept its skills for when a programmer wanted it to perform them but Boston Dynamics has now shown that SpotMini is able to navigate without assistance.

In the video above, which is longer than its posted three minutes or so (they compressed some of the movement), you can see SpotMini wandering through the Boston Dynamics corridors and labs, as well as over some interesting obstacles like stairs. The sensor view shows up onscreen, giving you an idea of what the canine robot is seeing and reacting to. The creepy part is that this is all autonomous. The robot has a chance to explore its environment while under manual control, at first, before being unleashed on the environment and allowed to go for a run.

And it’s not just the canine bots that are getting a little exercise. Atlas, who was pulling off backflips last time we saw him, has been given the ability to go for a run outside untethered and moves about as well as we do. Granted, we haven’t been out jogging in a while but then, Atlas is still learning as well.

The Atlas footage is remarkable because it shows Atlas maintaining balance on a range of uneven surfaces, keeping traction even on what looks like dry plants on green grass. Anyone who has gone running across that sort of surface without paying attention will know just how fraught with peril that activity actually is.

But before we go having visions of robotic slavery at the hands of Google Duplex and Boston’s robots, Atlas still has to slow down a fair bit to get over even rather low obstacles. At this point, we can still take him in a foot race. Provided we have a few logs handy, that is.


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