The Boston Dynamics Robots Can Do Parkour Now

The Boston Dynamics Robots Can Do Parkour Now
Image: Boston Dynamics

The Boston Dynamics name will probably be synonymous with Skynet one day because it’s now responsible for robots that can do actual parkour. I, a human, cannot do parkour like this robot can. Send help.

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots are a feat of incredible engineering. We’ve seen them run, we’ve seen them dance and now you can see them doing parkour.

Gaze upon robots doing parkour

Boston Dynamics released the video of the parkour routine and it’s already clocking up millions of views. The company described the clip as:

In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.

During the first part of this video, you’ll probably feel pretty good about yourself. It’s just running across some boxes, sure, I can do that.

It’s when they start balancing on beams and doing synchronised backflips you realise you’ve met your robot overlord.

How is this possible?

The Atlas robots have been in the making for a decade over at Boston Dynamics. They’re humanoid (not to be mistaken with the Spot dogs), stand 1.5 meters tall and weigh around 86 kg.

Boston Dynamics released a behind the scenes video alongside the parkour routine explaining some of the immense work that went into this impressive feat.

The parkour routine is the culmination of months of work and even this take wasn’t perfect. As Boston Dynamics pointed out in a blog post, one of the robots was supposed to pump its arm after its backflip but stumbled on the move.

“There are a lot of pretty exciting behaviours here, and some of them are not totally reliable yet. Every behaviour here has a small chance of failure. It’s almost 90 seconds of continuous jumping, jogging, turning, vaulting, and flipping, so those probabilities add up,” Ben Stephens, the Atlas controls lead, said of the video.

Despite the many problems the team encountered during tests, they managed to overcome them all and have pushed the boundaries of robotics yet again.

So what’s next for Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots?

“I find it hard to imagine a world 20 years from now where there aren’t capable mobile robots that move with grace, reliability and work alongside humans to enrich our lives. But we’re still in the early days of creating that future. I hope that demonstrations like this provide a small glimpse of what’s possible,” Atlas team lead Scott Kuindersma said.

Today parkour. Tomorrow Terminator.