Boston Dynamics’ latest Atlas video demonstrates a robot that runs, jumps, and now grabs and throws things

by Ana Lopez

Boston Dynamics just released the latest demo of its humanoid robot, Atlas. The robot could already run and jump over complex terrain thanks to its feet. Now the robot necessarily has hands. These rudimentary grippers give the robot a new life. Suddenly, instead of being an agile pack mule, the Atlas becomes something closer to a human being with the ability to pick up and drop anything it can grab on its own.

The claw-like gripper consists of one fixed finger and one moving finger. Boston Dynamics says the grabs are designed for heavy lifting and were first demonstrated in a Super Bowl commercial where Atlas held a barrel above his head.

Videos released today show the grapples picking up construction lumber and a nylon tool bag. Then the Atlas picks up a 2×8 and places it between two boxes to form a bridge. The Atlas then grabs a bag of tools and sprints across the bridge and through scaffolding. But the tool bag has to go to the second level of construction – something the Atlas apparently realized and quickly threw the bag a considerable distance. Boston Dynamics describes this final maneuver: “Atlas’ final move, an inverted 540-degree, multi-axis flip, adds asymmetry to the robot’s movement, making it a much more difficult skill than previously performed parkour.”

Boston Dynamic’s Atlas is a research platform and cannot be purchased. It has long been the star of many viral videos and has effectively demonstrated Boston Dynamic’s robotic abilities. In the small world of humanoid robotics, few competitors have demonstrated comparable capabilities of the Atlas. Only NASA’s Robonaut offers comparable hand-like grabs.

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