The fun times seem to be over for Boston Dynamics humanoid robot Atlas as it moves from doing backflips to manipulating heavy-looking pieces of metal.
A video shared on social media by the Boston-based robotics company shows Atlas moving vertically placed objects from one box and putting them in a horizontal position in another. It also shows the robot estimating the position of the object and its own hands in relation to it.
“Can't trip Atlas up!” Boston Dynamics said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, before adding, “Our humanoid robot gets ready for real work combining strength, perception, and mobility.”
Atlas earned its fame by doing backflips and parkour before its much more functional side was demonstrated last year when it was shown performing real-world manipulation tasks at human speeds.
The latest video puts further progress on display and offers a first-person view from the robot’s camera, which it uses to calculate its next moves. According to Jim Fan, a senior AI researcher at Nvidia, Atlas is “finally doing tasks that are actually useful.”
Fan said in a post on X: “Backflips are gimmicks. Dexterous manipulation, although less sexy, will be the true workhorse for economically valuable automation in the near future.”
Can't trip Atlas up! Our humanoid robot gets ready for real work combining strength, perception, and mobility. pic.twitter.com/f7mcnvbw3Lundefined Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) February 5, 2024
Some observers also noted that the objects handled by Atlas in the video reminded them of missiles and the setup of the boxes was similar to that of a tank gunner. “I can’t imagine that is a coincidence,” product designer Finlay Craig said on X.
Boston Dynamics has pledged in the past not to weaponize its general-purpose robots. Unlike two other creations from the engineering firm, the dog-like Spot and robotic arm Stretch, Atlas is still a research platform and not commercially available.
The objects and setup look similar to that of a tank gunner, and I can't imagine that is a coincidence. pic.twitter.com/TBqMLtlDP3undefined Finlay Craig (@finlaycraig) February 5, 2024
However, as industrial manufacturing is set for a robot revolution, it will unlikely remain that way. Spot is common at factories run by South Korean carmaker Hyundai, which owns Boston Dynamics.
Tesla is also working on its general-purpose robot called Optimus Gen 2, while its rival Figure partnered with German automaker BMW to deploy humanoid robots at its manufacturing facility in South Carolina.
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