Back in March, SOFREP reported on Boston Dynamics’ robot that was so unnerving to see in action, the company’s own CEO characterized it as “nightmare inducing.” That wheeled robot, called “Handle,” could move about with a surprising level of balance and versatility, but ultimately still bore very little resemblance to the Terminator style robots pop culture has led us to expect. At the time, the reasoning was simple: it’s tough to make a robot that can move on two legs as well as we humans do.
If you’re wondering why it’s useful to design a robot with the same approximate size, shape, and mobility patterns as a human being, you need look no further than the world around you. We humans have spent the better part of two hundred thousand years working toward shaping the world we live in into an environment that better suits our needs. Most things you interact with on a day-to-day basis were created by humans, for humans to be able to easily interact with or navigate. Everything from door knobs to staircases require an approximation of human anatomy to manage. If robots are ever going to find their way into your average work environment then they must be able to approximate the same ways humans are already interacting with it. That means robots that can walk upright on two legs at least as well as we can.
Or… perhaps even significantly better.
For years, scientists have struggled to build a robot that could approximate the human gait while being able to maintain balance when taken by surprise, but it would seem that the team at Boston Dynamics have all but conquered that challenge with their Atlas robot. Not only can it execute leaps up onto boxes that appear to be around three feet tall, it’s also capable of the sort of acrobatic dismount only elite human gymnasts could hope to pull off. The Atlas has previously been seen in videos as it walks around uneven terrain outside the Boston Dynamics office, and of course, suffers all sorts of abuse at the hands of its creators as a part of their testing efforts.