Sold by Google after suspicions of collusion with the US Army jeopardized the Android developer’s “innocent” image, Boston Dynamics continues to show remarkable progress with its flagship robot, Atlas.
If in its early versions, the Atlas robot appeared more like a humble slinger, carrying a bulky backpack that actually housed its batteries and electronic “brain,” we can now talk about a true athlete, capable of performing acrobatics, jumping over obstacles, knocking down or throwing objects.
Although still too top-heavy to bend over objects, Atlas doesn’t seem to have any difficulty with spinning in the air, keeping his balance, or jumping over obstacles, surpassing in some respects even the famous Terminator from the movie series of the same name.
This time, the innovation appears to be a new version of the rudimentary palms originally developed for handling relatively large objects (e.g., cardboard or wooden boxes). Equipped with pressure sensors and a mechanism that can accurately dose the force applied, the Atlas can pick up and throw objects of all kinds, the activities demonstrated looking more and more like the routine of a worker in a warehouse.
Of course, the implications of such agility go much further than that. For example, the “descendants” of the Atlas robot could be the future sacrificial soldiers in the US Army’s armoury, ready to deploy to conflict zones with zero risk to human personnel.