It seems like a human vs. robot chase sequence is no longer confined to the big screen. Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots are fully capable of backflips, speed runs, and even parkour — and they’re very much real.
In a video released by the robotics company responsible for the beloved Spot the robot dog, two humanoid Atlas robots jump, leap, and tumble through a complicated Parkour obstacle course without so much as missing a beat.
According to their blog, the robots aren’t for mass consumption. Instead, they’re more of an experimental research project. The main purpose was to test the limits of robotic technology by seeing how far their robots can go.
It’s fairly obvious that they’ve struck gold: you can see the robots gracefully maneuver every part of the obstacle course without catching a breath. While their movements are modelled after human behavior, they don’t seem to tire the way we do.
In the first course, you’ll see one robot running up a series of spaced-out wooden panels then smoothly jump a wide gap onto the next platform. The second robot elegantly leaps onto a balance beam (it even does a fist pump). Both robots then do a backflip at the same time.
It’s safe to say these high-end, automated machines have come a long way from the primitive models of the past. Before, it was a huge deal to see a bipedal robot successfully operating a treadmill. Now, if your invention doesn’t look like it can compete in a high-speed chase or become the next American Ninja Warrior, forget it.
It’s hard not to speculate about a looming future with these gymnast-level robots running amok. But there’s no cause for premature worrying: Boston Dynamics adamantly requires ethical use of their robots. Even with Spot the Dog, terms and conditions were strict, stating that no part of their product is to be used against the law:
“We cross-check every purchase request against the U.S. Government’s denied persons and entities lists, prior to authorizing a sale. In addition, all buyers must agree to our Terms and Conditions of Sale, which state that our products must be used in compliance with the law, and cannot be used to harm or intimidate people or animals, or be used as a weapon or configured to hold a weapon.”
So while plenty of science fiction movies have given us a glimpse into countless bleak dystopian futures governed by robot overlords, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are no laser beams coming out of these robots’ heads just yet.
Instead, Atlas team lead Scott Kuindersma says the robots “capture our vision of a go-anywhere, do-anything robot of the future. They may not be the best design for any particular task, but if you wanted to build one platform that could perform a wide variety of physical tasks, we already know that a human form factor is capable of doing that.”