Boston Dynamics' new Atlas video shows how the robot could help construction workers


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Editor's take: Watching the evolution of Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot will likely elicit one of two feelings: wonder at how the machine is becoming more human-like in its abilities that might benefit the world, or terror as we view the first stage of a machine that could, at best, take jobs and, at worst, enslave us all. Either way, the company's new video is pretty impressive.

The latest demo video showcasing Atlas' talents illustrates how far the robot has come and the potential for its practical uses. The bipedal machine could barely walk when it first arrived. By 2017, it was performing parkour and backflips. A year later, Atlas was jogging, leaping over logs, and bounding from one 40cm step to another, using its legs, arms, and torso to drive its jumps and for balancing. It progressed to full-on gymnastics in 2019.

Like some of the company's other robots, there have long been questions over Atlas' practical applications. Those have been answered in Boston Dynamics' latest Atlas demo video, in which the new hand grippers, first seen in a Super Bowl commercial, allow the robot to aid a (fake) construction worker.

Watching Atlas pick up a 2x8 and use it to create a bridge before navigating the scaffolding while carrying a pack of tools is pretty amazing. The robot is also able to throw a bag up to the worker using a 180-degree jump, finishing off its display with a 540-degree, multi-axis flip that project engineers have dubbed the "Sick Trick," which is a lot more advanced than the parkour it previously showed off.

We probably shouldn't worry about entire construction sites filled with Atlas robots just yet: it still makes plenty of mistakes that are edited out of these videos. Atlas controls lead Ben Stephens said researchers are still a "long way off" from creating humanoid robots that can routinely tackle dirty and dangerous jobs in the real world.

Boston Dynamics currently only sells two robot models: Stretch, used in warehouses to move boxes; and Spot, which is utilized for various tasks, including surveillance and mapping. With this latest video, Atlas looks to be on the slow track toward finding its ideal profession. Thankfully, Boston Dynamics previously asked people not to use its robots as weapons.

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Posts: 48   +64
What they can do with that machine is pretty amazing, but until it has the brains to perform tasks unscripted with surprise events - its of little value. Again, it is very impressive. Not belittling their accomplishments (And I absolutely love their dancing bots YT vids haha)

1. What if dofus humans put the tool bag behind the table saw
2. What if dofus humans walked up to the wood plank when the bot ran for the tool bag, and thought "WTF is this doing here, get outta mah way - toss plank". Plank is no longer where the bot left it
3. What if neighbor's teacup doggy was below where the bot chucked the big wood box off the scaffolding 'splat'


Posts: 266   +348
If anyone has (or hasn't) seen the movie "Runaway" with Tom Selleck, one of the first scenes is at a construction site with a robot that went crazy. That's right where my mind went with this article. It's one of those movies that's so bad it's great, if you're into that sort of thing.


Posts: 27   +27
Naah, Elon Musk's robots are much better ! (please go check them out if you're up for a good 🤣)


Posts: 170   +55
It's interesting that they still use modern applications, thus relying on people that have knowledge of cpus and gpus and everything that works in-between, like animations, senzors, cameras


Posts: 256   +145
I don’t know how useful it will be in a construction site but definitely it has talent… or at least it’s animator.


Posts: 79   +72
Did anyone find the bag being thrown and suddenly alter course? It appeared that the trajectory of the initial throw was going to hit the guy, but then the bag suddenly went down more. It didn't appear to hit anything mid flight... so, what is going on here?

Honestly though if these can do all that, there is little reason it can't just nearly do your entire job. I don't really see artist-precise trades being replaced by these things, but general labor that doesn't require some delicate visual precision could be - and that is mostly what is needed for building structures. Only the final touches may require a human.