See Boston Dynamics Atlas robots work a parkour course like it's nothing

"We're exploring how to push it to its limits, sometimes operating at those limits."

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Yeah, no big deal. 

GIF by Leslie Katz/CNET

Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot has advanced its parkour skills since we first watched it navigate obstacles like a boss. In a new video from the company, the bipedal robots can be seen jumping up the levels of a tiered platform, running across and over a balance beam and generally making most humans look like clods in comparison. 

The Atlas robot, which also counts backflips and handstands among its talents, has demonstrated impressive balance while parkour-ing before. The difference here is the robot can now adapt behaviors based on what it sees. That means engineers don't have to pre-program jumping motions for all the platforms and gaps the robot might encounter. It's become a more independent athlete. 

Atlas, initially designed for search and rescue tasks, was unveiled to the public in 2013. The robot stands about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs about 190 pounds (86 kilograms). It's battery-powered and hydraulically actuated with 28 degrees of freedom.  

Watch this: Watch a pair of Boston Dynamics Atlas robots perform parkour

Boston Dynamics has identified parkour as a perfect test activity for Atlas as the company works to make high-powered humanoid robots more dexterous. The training discipline engages the whole body and requires Atlas to maintain its balance in different situations and seamlessly switch between behaviors. 

"We're exploring how to push it to its limits, sometimes operating at those limits," says Benjamin Stephens, Atlas controls lead. "We learn a lot from that in terms of how to build robots that can survive falling on their face and getting back up and doing it again." To see some of those face-plants and crashes, watch the behind-the-scenes video below. 

Today parkour, tomorrow the world. Or at least more parkour. 

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