Boston Dynamics shouldn’t need any introduction to anybody with an interest in robots. The company this time has come up with a human-like ‘Atlas’ robot that could maneuver past an obstacle course and complete a parkour routine successfully for the first time ever. This makes for a significant development as this could pave the way one day to the development of humanoid bots that may take up many of the tasks currently performed by humans, which includes policing duties, to maybe even fighting wars sometime in the future.
Among the actions that Atlas performed include jumping overs gaps, vaulting beams, and coordinating a backflip, among others, all with the grace and pomp that might put humans to shame. As already stated, this could well be a sign of things to come in the future. Imagine being chased by one of these. They seem to get the better of you with each step after a while as they never tire (provided they have enough charge left) while you start panting for breath.
That said, the picture isn’t rosy as is being made of as Atlas is still a work in progress thing. For they too didn’t make it past the tests without hiccups. For instance, doing a vault seems their weakest link with only a 50 percent success rate. Several of the movements need to be fine-tuned, which includes the fist-pumping gesture. Also, from what is being made out so far, the arms joins can benefit from more strength while the lack of a spine too is telling.
For the scientists at Boston Dynamics, the performance so far is still impressive considering the months of effort they have put into it. The Atlas humanoid bots are also serving as a vital tool to test the limits of a robot’s capabilities and their ability to maintain balance in different scenarios. Also, Atlas is programmed to use visuals to make changes in their movements as the course demanded.
In that vein, it is going to be highly interesting to see what the next iteration of Atlas is capable of, how much refined their movements turn out to be, and more importantly, whether they come with enough intelligence to make decisions on their own. The latter bit might be crucial and let’s hope there are enough controls built-in, or else, the apocalypse movies we enjoyed in the theatres might play out in real life in the future.