fb-pixel Skip to main content

This parkour robot does backflips — and lands them with the grace of an Olympic champion

This parkour robot does backflips — and lands them with the grace of an Olympic champion
This parkour robot does backflips — and lands them with the grace of an Olympic champion

If you thought Boston Dynamics’ “SpotMini” robot, with its dog-like motions and sleek, nimble design, was something of nightmares, feast your eyes on the Waltham-based company’s latest iteration of its humanoid machine, “Atlas.”

It walks.

It jumps.

It does backflips from high places — and lands them with the ease of an Olympic champion.

Boston Dynamics shared a video of Atlas performing these various tasks Thursday night, opening the floodgates for the usual barrage of comments about how the end is nigh and robots are just a few gymnastic moves away from taking over the world.

At the start of the one-minute video, the Atlas machine is seen hopping on and off a series of small blue blocks. When it gets to the third block, which is significantly higher than the first two, the robot pauses, and then does a 180-degree turn, keeping its balance. It again pauses briefly and then executes another spin before landing on the ground.

Atlas then approaches the next tall block, hops up like a Crossfit fanatic doing a box jump, and proceeds to do a backflip from the ledge, sticking a landing that would earn it a top score if there were such a thing as Robot Olympics — a notion that doesn’t seem far off if you consider the fighting robots being produced by MegaBots Inc., in California.

To hammer home just how impressive Atlas is, Boston Dynamics slows down the video and replays the dismount.

Advertisement



Perhaps in an attempt to make people feel better about the fact that a robot is more active than they are, the company also included a few bloopers at the end of the clip.

It didn’t seem to help much, however.

“Be Afraid! Terminator is Coming!” one person said in response to the video.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Boston Dynamics has teased footage of its advanced products. Atlas, a “bipedal humanoid” robot, first made waves in 2013, though at the time it was much clunkier. A video posted last year even showed a version of Atlas picking up boxes and walking in the snow.

On its website, Boston Dynamics describes Atlas as “a remarkable compact robot with high strength-to-weight ratio.”

“Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing,” according to the company. “Atlas’ control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso, and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace.”

The video, which racked up nearly 3 million views in less than 24 hours, marked the second time this week the company unveiled an updated version of one of its past inventions.

Advertisement



On Monday, Boston Dynamics showed off a newer, modified “SpotMini” robot, a graceful machine that runs on all fours and is marketed as some sort of household pet from the future.

Boston Dynamics was born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early ’90s. In 2013, it was acquired by Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, before eventually being sold to Softbank, a Japanese conglomerate, earlier this year.

If its latest videos and robots are any indication, the tech business is showing no signs of slowing down.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.