Whenever Boston Dynamics drops a new video featuring Atlas, you know it’s going to do two things. It’ll impress you and it’ll also make you fear for the future of humanity. When last we checked in with the humanoid robot, it was doing parkour. Now? It’s going to work.
As demonstrations go, the latest video of Boston Dynamics’ robot is a little less visually impressive than clearing an obstacle course. But on a technical level, seeing Atlas do what it does is a surprising leap forward in what bipedal robots are capable of.
Previously, the robotic star’s skills have all been purely movement based. The latest video pairs its navigation over varied terrain with the ability to a) create new pathways and b) carry objects along those pathways. Finally, it’s able to accurately pass that object both vertically and laterally.
In other words, if Atlas ever did gain sentience, you’re unlikely to outrun it simply by climbing some stairs. But it could well prove to be a useful tool as well. With its current skill set, the robot humanoid should (technically) be able to load and offload trucks and containers. We’re sure there are obstacles to that that need to be overcome — the video above appears scripted to show the robot to its best advantage. But, as sensing and location tech improves, we could well see robots performing tasks like this with a fair degree of autonomy.
Boston Dynamics’ Scott Kuindersma said, “Our hope is that, if we can build the foundational technology that allows us to easily create and adapt dynamic behaviours like these, we should be able to leverage it down the road to perform real, physically demanding jobs with hustle. There are many pieces required to deliver a complete solution in a domain like manufacturing or construction—this video highlights a narrow slice of what we’re working on.”
Heck, perhaps one day robots like this will set the stage for manned missions to locations like Mars.