Future Tense

The New Robot From Boston Dynamics Is Eerily Humanlike

The video above from Boston Dynamics introduces the next generation of Atlas, the amazing bipedal robot. Atlas is designed to operate successfully indoors and out, and its specialty is mobile manipulation. Its movements are almost eerily humanlike, which is indicative of the breakthrough Atlas may represent for robotics.

Boston Dynamics began as an offshoot of MIT and is now wholly owned by Google parent company Alphabet. The company consults for DARPA, multiple branches of the United States military, and various global corporations.

The electric-powered and hydraulically operated Atlas is about 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing in at a stout 180 lbs. The key to its navigation skills is what’s truly amazing, though. Per Boston Dynamics, its ability to avoid obstacles and handle objects comes from the partnership between sensors in its body and legs and LIDAR and special stereo sensors in its head. And the result of those navigatorial breakthroughs is obvious: Atlas’ ability to assess and respond to challenging terrain is nothing short of amazing. Living where I do, I can tell you there is not an environment that is harder to traverse than a snowy forest floor. Simply put, I’m extremely impressed.

It’s significant how readily Atlas generates an emotional response. Its (I almost said “his”) humanlike movements make it fascinating and a bit jarring to watch the robot move about the world.