Apocalypse Soon? Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot can now run and jump

Boston Dynamics has improved its humanoid Atlas robot by teaching it to scale obstacles.

In a new video from robotics experts Boston Dynamics, Atlas is shown hopping over a log before scaling a series of boxes. The video, entitled Parkour Atlas, shows the robot leap from side to side up the obstacles without losing momentum or balance.

We’ve mocked Atlas incessantly, calling it a The Jetsons reject and a really impractical fancy dress costume, but perhaps it’s time we took it a little more seriously, now it’s turning into a fully mobile humanoid robot. Real humans can find it strenuous enough climbing stairs, and the fact that Atlas can jump up knee-high obstacles from standing without breaking a (metaphorical) sweat is a tad disconcerting.

In the past we’ve seen Atlas pick itself up off the floor, do a backflip and go on a cross-country run. Now it can jump, all it needs to do is swim and it’s basically as mobile as a human.

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Atlas isn’t Boston Dynamics’ only high-profile robot — for every robot man, there must be a robot man’s best friend. The SpotMini robo-dog can open doors, fend off human attackers (which does nothing to alleviate people’s fears at these creations), and infiltrate Horizon Zero Dawn conventions. The advances Boston Dynamics is making on the Atlas and SpotMini, by imbuing them with skills and traits of their real human (or canine) counterparts, shows it sees a future in which robots stride side-by-side with humans in society.

At the rate Atlas is learning, it won’t be long until we see it in the real world helping you carry boxes, taking your dog for a walk, or hunting down Sarah Connor.

Boston Dynamics is owned by Japanese firm Softbank, who has been slowly buying out or funding tech companies and sites like ARM, Slack and Improbable. Clearly, it doesn’t need the Atlas robot to instigate a world takeover, as its wallet seems capable of doing that anyway.

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