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This video of Boston Dynamics’ creepy humanoid robot doing parkour is equal parts amazing and terrifying

Published Sep 24th, 2019 3:18PM EDT
atlas robot gymnastics
Image: BostonDynamics

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Robots have always had certain advantages over humans. They’re typically made of more durable materials than the soft tissue covering human bodies and since they can be repaired in the event of damage, they can basically “live” forever. But robots are usually clunky and clumsy, and humans have always had a huge advantage in terms of dexterity.

Thanks to the mad scientists at Boston Dynamics, that appears to be changing. The humanoid Atlas robot, which has already demonstrated incredibly impressive human-like abilities, just keeps getting better and better, and a new video by the company shows that its fluidity of movement has now easily surpassed your own (and mine).

Atlas has slowly but surely been learning a lot of new skills over the past few years. It’s graduated from holding boxes and awkwardly walking to sprinting over obstacles and navigating all manner of difficult terrain.

This latest demonstration is an evolution of those skills, with the robot showcasing its ability to tumble, spin in the air, and even do a respectable handstand. It’s essentially a full-fledged gymnastics routine being performed by a robot. Whether that’s awesome or scary depends on your point of view.

The bot pulls it all off flawlessly in the video, but Boston Dynamics points out that it doesn’t always nail the moves:

We created the maneuvers using new techniques that streamline the development process. First, an optimization algorithm transforms high-level descriptions of each maneuver into dynamically-feasible reference motions. Then Atlas tracks the motions using a model predictive controller that smoothly blends from one maneuver to the next. Using this approach, we developed the routine significantly faster than previous Atlas routines, with a performance success rate of about 80%.

Still, being able to pull this off four out of five times is nothing to scoff at, and if Atlas is indeed learning things faster than ever before, we’ll likely be seeing even more impressive routines in the near future.