Our future rests in the balance as Atlas robot stands tall

16 Sep 2016

Boston Dynamics’ latest trick sees its pioneering robot Atlas balancing on a slender beam, constantly readjusting its weight to make sure it stays upright. They’re evolving.

The Google-owned Boston Dynamics has continually improved upon its previous robotic achievements, with Spot the dog and the Karate Kid robot already antiquated pieces of machinery.

Robots Atlas Boston Dynamics

Future Human

Atlas, the bipedal humanoid robot, has hit another crucial milestone. Witnessing it balance on a very narrow beam and battling against gravity, it’s clear these robots are evolving remarkably quickly.

This stems from years of research, testing, tweaking and thumping. Not so long ago, Boston Dynamics engineers released footage of the different ways they have knocked over several of the robots.

Though it looks something akin to bullying, this was a necessary evil. They have to test robots’ balance and ability to recover from unexpected situations.

Robot bullying is real

The company is one of the more prolific robotics teams when it comes to publishing various gimmicks and achievements.

In late 2014, Atlas, kicked its way onto our screens. After a bit of a revamp earlier this year, the standing robot emerged as a genuine leader in everything from appearance and dexterity to general movement.

For one, its exterior of a multitude of wires, piping and motors were covered by a futuristic-looking white and blue casing to give it the look of a true future commercial robot.

Some major structural changes were also carried out on Atlas. Most notably, the significant weight reduction from just under 150kg, as per the previous build, to around 82kg.

While Atlas’ improvements are obvious, Boston Dynamics’ other well-known bot, Spot the dog, has also aged very well.

The four-legged 72.5kg Spot was released into the public domain almost two years ago, itself the fourth iteration of Boston Dynamics’ four-legged machines. BigDog back in 2005 was the first of what is now an extensive line.

Spot has proved so versatile, in fact, that last Christmas it doubled as a reindeer in a truly bizarre promo video from Boston Dynamics.

Beyond the joke promo, behind the scenes, Spot was being improved dramatically.

Main robot image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic