Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot just nailed a gymnastics routine and it’s terrifying

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Anyone familiar with the robotics field will recognize the name Boston Dynamics. The company is responsible for some of the most sophisticated humanoid and animal-like robots in the world. From Spot, a quadruped that’s straight out of “Black Mirror,” to the human-shaped Atlas bot, its creations are an equal mix of awesome and terrifying.

Now, Atlas has pulled off a feat that most people can’t even come close to. Boston Dynamics recently released a video of the humanoid mastering a complicated gymnastics routine. While the helpful implications of such technology are groundbreaking, seeing a robot do 360 jumps and somersaults in a fluid motion is a little unnerving.

Atlas’ Newest Hobby

The Boston Dynamics video, published on Tuesday, shows off the bot’s incredible coordination.

Just a few years ago, it seemed like a miracle that humans were able to create a stair-climbing robot. Now, this one can do a handstand with no problem. The impressive routine is composed of several somersaults, a handstand, and multiple 360-degree jumps. Atlas even finishes in the classic “Y” gymnastics pose.

However, this isn’t the first time that the humanoid has tried its hand at human physical activities. It has also gone for a run, performed some crazy parkour, and more. While all of these routines might just seem like fun content for the Boston Dynamics YouTube channel, they actually have a more intense purpose.

Each complicated maneuver and activity helps bring the robot closer to its eventual job of filling in for humans in dangerous situations. For example, it could be the primary “boots on the ground” in a rescue mission after a natural disaster.

Boston Dynamics claims that Atlas can complete its gymnastics routine with approximately 80 percent success. The team used a combination of an optimization algorithm and a “model predictive controller” to create the smooth progression of the robot’s movements.

History and Future of Atlas

Boston Dynamics first created Atlas back in 2013 and it quickly became one of the world’s most sophisticated bipedal robots. However, it isn’t the only one of its kind. Russia has a similar bot named Fedor—though it is slightly less impressive.

Since its original creation, though, Atlas has made startling improvements. Its abilities continue to progress faster than seemingly possible. Nonetheless, the humanoid still has a long way to go. Though practice runs like its gymnastics routine are impressive, the real world contains a countless and unpredictable array of obstacles and challenges to face.

If Boston Dynamics wants to drop Atlas into dangerous, fluctuating conditions, the bot must learn to operate autonomously and respond to a wide variety of obstacles. Of course, that raises the question of whether we really want Terminator bots running around on their own. That will certainly be something that humanity must discuss sooner rather than later considering Atlas’ rapid development.