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The Kid Should See This

Two Atlas robots show off their parkour skills

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Boston Dynamics‘ humanoid robot, Atlas, has come a long way from its 2013 debut. It’s no longer tethered to power, no longer stabilized to keep it from falling, no longer simply walking. Atlas is practicing parkour. This one-minute 2021 video, Partners in Parkour, shares how two Atlas robots run, hop, and flip their way around some simple obstacles: Stairs, beams, uneven surfaces, platforms.

atlas robot jumping
Team Lead Scott Kuindersma, CTO Aaron Saunders, and Control Lead Benjamin Stephens explains in their Inside the Lab video below:

“Parkour is a useful organizing activity for our team because it highlights several challenges that we believe to be important. First, how do we build a high power density mobile robot that’s capable of extended athletic behavior, how do we design control algorithms that can create a variety of behaviors and control them robustly, and how do we connect perception to action in a way that both captures long-term goals like getting from point a to point b and short-term dynamic goals like adjusting footsteps and applying corrective forces to maintain balance.”

atlas robots flipping

“What makes parkour mountain hard was not so much the individual moves—those had been worked on a lot prior to kind of pulling together—but running the entire course doing it in one contiguous set of operations really drives the need for reliability and repeatability. And these are things that are pragmatic but really difficult. That’s what the team really focuses on. I think the biggest success is being able to show all of those exciting things pulled together and done repeatably and reliably.

It can be frustrating sometimes. The robots crash a lot. It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour. It’s kind of a choreographed routine much like, you know, a skateboard video or a parkour video where you know it’s an athlete that’s practiced these moves dozens or hundreds of times.”

Though its movements are still rigid, this version of the bot moves much more like a human than earlier attacked and dancing versions.

behind the scenes
How does Atlas work? Watch this Inside The Lab video:

What do you imagine Atlas will be used for?

Watch these robot videos next on TKSST:
• Disney Imagineering’s autonomous robot stunt doubles
• Madeline the Robot Tamer & Mimus
• iCub, IIT’s teleoperated robot toddler
• The animatronic animals of Spy in the Wild
• Boston Dynamics’ robots dance to ‘Do You Love Me’ by The Contours

Plus: Swiss freestyle skier’s acrobatic parkour training.

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