Boston Dynamics Atlas robot can now jump and perform backflips on its own without assistance. (Image credit Boston Dynamics)

 

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas has come a long way since it was first developed back in 2013 as a spin-off of the company’s earlier PETMAN robot. Back then, the mechanical monstrosity had to be tethered to a bulky power supply and used an overhead crane for safety purposes as it had a tendency to fall down a lot. DARPA Program Manager Gill Pratt emphasized that point stating several years ago in a New York Time article that, “a 1-year-old child can barely walk, a 1-year-old child falls down a lot ... this is where we are right now.”

 

Today that’s no longer the case, as Boston Dynamics released a new video showcasing the robot’s unique talent- the ability to jump on platforms of varied heights and even the ability to perform a backflip from a standing starting point. The new capabilities are probably due in part by the reduction in weight and height it underwent last year- going from 6-feet tall, 330 Lbs. down to 5’-9-inches tall and 180Lbs respectively. Atlas’ control system helps actuate the robot’s 28 joints- coordinating the motion of its arms, torso, and legs to achieve balance and whole-body manipulation. Regardless of the science jargon, the display is indeed impressive as seen in the video below.

 

 

 

Boston Dynamics revamped their SpotMini as well, removing the articulated arm and adding a sleeker frame. (Image credit Boston Dynamics)

 

Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini has undergone a transformation as well, although in this case, a more dramatic one regarding aesthetics. Gone is it’s 5-DOF arm (with googly eyes pasted to its sides, giving it a head-like appearance), which was used to pick up and handle various objects. The company has also revamped its sensor suite- stereo and depth cameras and an IMU and mounted them to the front of the robot’s housing. They’ve also equipped position and force sensors in its limbs to better judge navigation and weight payloads for more efficient travel.

 

Most striking though, is that the SpotMini is now encased in a 3D printed shell, giving it a more streamlined appearance. While information on this new version of the Mini is scant at best, it looks like it has better motion when it moves, so it makes me wonder if its actuators have been redesigned as well. Check out the video below to see what I mean.

 


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