Boston Dynamics Atlas robot can now parkour better than most people

Robot Atlas from Boston Dynamics has a new trick: he can parkour on a gymnastics track. In addition, he is able to move at speed on a complex circuit with obstacles of different heights, and can run on a thin bar and do somersaults.

As if it wasn’t enough that Boston Dynamics’ most famous robot Atlas can dance, roll over and go for a run outside, the robot has a new trick. He can now move at pace on an intricate circuit with slanting and high obstacles, he can jump and run over a beam and also do a somersault off a platform.

And he can do all that together with another Atlas robot. It is the first time that Atlas has been able to bridge a complex circuit of obstacles flawlessly, the developers of the robot say in a blog post. The engineers worked for months on the routine, which they say is still not perfect. One of the two robots had to pump his arm like a baseball player at the end of the routine. The robot didn’t, so it’s back to the drawing board for the engineers.

If you’re wondering: why should a robot be able to parkour if an average person can’t even sit up in an office chair all day, the Boston Dynamics team has an answer to that too: Ultimately, it’s important that Atlas learns to respond on his environment with the same ease as an adult human being. Atlas should be able to go anywhere and do anything in the future. Parkour is the perfect sandbox for this, explains team leader Scott Kuindersma.

Although the routine was devised by Atlas’ engineers, they do not have to program and calculate the exact movements in advance for the routine. Atlas can react to a number of obstacles itself, based on perception. The robot then makes a number of critical adjustments on the spot to maintain balance and maintain the correct posture.

Curious about how Atlas works? Boston Dynamics posted a behind-the-scenes look at the same time as the video above: