As many companies tirelessly work to advance technology and utilise its possibilities for the good of humankind, others seem to just be having fun with it.
Such as Boston Dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, the technology behind their robotics is incredible and not something to be taken lightly.
On the other hand, perfecting a humanoid robot so it can do parkour? It sounds like someone’s joke answer to the question ‘what shall we make our robot do?’ got a bit out of hand.
Either way, it worked, and Boston Dynamics now have a robot that can do parkour. Legitness.
Check it out:
This robot just added parkour to the list of things it can do that I can’t, which also includes backflips, walking in the snow without falling over, and being emotionally available for people. Time to sit back and let Skynet do its thing, I guess.
The video shows the robot – who is called Atlas, read into that what you will – athletically leaping over logs, and up a number of large boxes. Admittedly, it sounds pretty simple, but when you see it, it looks so human it’s hard not wonder whether it’s just a guy in a robot suit.
Boston Dynamics describe it as:
Atlas does parkour. 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.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this guy on Ninja Warrior in the near future.
Of course, Atlas isn’t alone in Boston Dynamics’ world of robots. He’s got a robot’s best friend – a robot dog.
Atlas’s buddy, called SpotMini, has all the qualities of a regular dog. He’s totally warm, friendly, not scary looking and great with kids. He’s also a persistent little dude.
Just check out SpotMini let nothing stop him opening a door, not even a guy with a hockey stick:
Describing the video, Boston Dynamics say:
A test of SpotMini’s ability to adjust to disturbances as it opens and walks through a door. A person (not shown) drives the robot up to the door, points the hand at the door handle, then gives the ‘GO’ command, both at the beginning of the video and again at 42 seconds.
The robot proceeds autonomously from these points on, without help from a person. A camera in the hand finds the door handle, cameras on the body determine if the door is open or closed and navigate through the doorway. Software provides locomotion, balance and adjusts behaviour when progress gets off track.
The ability to tolerate and respond automatically to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot. (Note: This testing does not irritate or harm the robot.)
That’s reassuring, don’t want to look like we’re trying to harm our future overlords now do we.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.