For over a decade, Boston Dynamics’ YouTube channel has been revealing science marvels in innocuous, playful ways. In its latest video titled Atlas Gets a Grip, the lab showcases the agility of its bipedal robot in a way that’s both incredible and unexpected.
The video begins with a construction worker atop scaffolding, hammering away at a post. The worker stops to say that he has forgotten his tools. But rather than go down to get it, he grabs a tablet out of his bag. The camera pans down to the robot Atlas, who playfully “looks” side to side before spotting a wooden plank to help it along its journey. The plank is placed on top of a makeshift staircase of blocks and the lower level of scaffolding, connecting the two.
Atlas runs to grab the toolkit and then runs up the stairs and onto the scaffolding. Impressively, the robot hops from the lowest level of scaffolding to the middle level while maintaining its balance. Then, Atlas turns while jumping, thrusting the tool bag onto the top level of scaffolding. It then turns its attention to a giant wooden box—taller than itself—and pushes it off the scaffolding. Finally, in a daring and surprising turn of events, Atlas perfectly flips onto the floor. As it sticks the landing, it ends with a triumphant fist bump in the air.
In a follow-up behind-the-scenes video, Boston Dynamics reveals what viewers might have already been thinking: this marks a new era for Atlas. “[The video] is meant to communicate an expansion of the research that we’re doing on Atlas,” says Scott Kuindersma, Atlas team lead. “So we’re not just thinking about how to make the robot move dynamically through its environment like we did in parkour and dance. Now we’re starting to put Atlas to work and think about how the robot should be able to perceive and manipulate objects in its environment, while maintaining that characteristic high level of performance that we expect from Atlas.”
This sequel video, titled Inside the Lab: Taking Atlas From Sim to Scaffold, goes into the interesting specifics of how Atlas is able to move and perceive its environment. As well, it shows some kind of adorable bloopers of the robot trying to complete the tasks it's been given. No matter the amount of takes Atlas had to do before successfully completing the skit, it's incredibly impressive how quickly Atlas’ skills have improved in the past couple of years.
Scroll below to watch Atlas skillfully complete the makeshift course, as well as watch the behind-the-scenes making-of video.