By maintain Atlas come maneuver its way through facility parkour courses, Boston Dynamics engineers develop brand-new movements influenced by human being behaviors and push the humanoid robot come its limits.

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For the first time today, both Atlas robots have actually completed the complicated obstacle course flawlessly. Or, virtually flawlessly.

The very first of the two robots ran up a collection of banked plywood panels, wide jumped a gap, and ran up and down stair in the course collection up on the second floor of the Boston Dynamics headquarters. The 2nd robot leapt top top a balance beam and also followed the same procedures in reverse, and also then the first robot vaulted end the beam. Both landed 2 perfectly synchronized backflips, and the video team has caught every move.

And yet, the robotics designers who have actually been working on this regimen for month barely take it time to celebrate. Moment after the cameras cut they’re huddled together, make changes prior to the following take. Although this many recent attempt was practically perfect, that was not precisely perfect, no quite. After the robots completed their backflips, one was supposed to pump the arm like a big-league pitcher ~ a game-ending strikeout – a move that the Atlas team call the “Cha-Ching.”

The robot walk pump that is arm, but it likewise stumbled a little on this simple move. The was simply the little stutter step, something most world watching the video clip would never notice. However the Atlas team notices every detail and they desire to gain it right.

“We hadn’t operation that habits after the backflip prior to today, so that was really an experiment,” claims Scott Kuindersma, the Atlas team command at Boston Dynamics. “If you watch the video closely, it looks a little awkward. We’re going come swap in a behavior we’ve tested before so we have some to trust it will certainly work.”

The perfectionism on screen here is admirable, and one it s okay the sense that this type of attention to detail is what has developed robots the are qualified of completing such a futuristic, impossible-seeming routine. Yet it likewise raises a question that at an initial seems surprising, yet then seems obvious: Why does the matter?

Why walk it issue if Atlas stutters once it pumps that fist? Why does it matter if the pumps the fist in ~ all, for that matter? and while we’re questioning questions, what exactly is the use of running the robots v an obstacle course? Why the banked plywood panels, why the vault, why the backflips?

In short: Why parkour?

Building a Foundation

A robot’s capability to finish a backflip might never prove useful in a advertisement setting. (Atlas is a research platform, not a commercial product.) but it doesn’t take it a good deal of creative thinking or sector-specific expertise to see why it would be useful for Atlas to be able to perform the same selection of movements and also physical tasks as humans. If robots can eventually respond to their atmospheres with the very same level that dexterity as the mean adult human, the variety of potential applications will be practically limitless.

“Humanoids are interesting from a pair perspectives,” Kuindersma says. “First, they capture our vision of a go-anywhere, do-anything robot the the future. They may not it is in the best architecture for any specific task, however if you want to build one platform that can perform a wide range of physics tasks, we currently know the a human kind factor is capable of doing that.”

“From a technological perspective, humanoids present several challenges that we welcome as a study team,” the adds. “Their mix of size and complexity create hardware architecture tradeoffs concerned strength to load ratio, runtime, range of motion, and also physical robustness. At the same time, our regulate team has to produce algorithms that can reason around the physical complexity of these equipments to develop a broad collection of high energy and coordinated behavior. Ultimately, pushing the limits on a humanoid robot choose Atlas cd driver hardware and also software innovation that converts to all of our robots at Boston Dynamics.”

Ultimately, pushing the boundaries on a humanoid robot like Atlas cd driver hardware and software invention that translates to all of our robots in ~ Boston Dynamics.

- Scott Kuindersma, Atlas Team Lead

Parkour, as narrow and details as it may seem, gives the Atlas team a perfect sandbox to experiment with new behaviors. The a whole-body task that needs Atlas to preserve its balance in different situations and also seamlessly switch in between one behavior and another.

“It’s really around creating behaviors at the limits of the robot’s capabilities and also getting them every to work together in a flexible manage system,” Kuindersma says. “There are many important troubles that parkour doesn’t pressure you come address, yet that’s not the point. We’re no trying to solve every little thing all in ~ once. The work we’re doing currently is enabling us to produce a solid foundation for tackling the next collection of research study problems.”

The development of Atlas

Looking ago over five years that Atlas videos, it’s simple to lose sight that just just how much development the team has made during that time. In fact, few of the enhancements are invisible come the median viewer, even though castle represent gigantic leaps (quite literally, in this instance) in technology. Although Atlas was doing dive rolls and handstands and backflips in earlier videos, the underlying processes for managing those moves have evolved.

“Atlas’s move are driven by perception now, and also they weren’t ago then,” Kuindersma explains. “For example, the previous floor routine and also dance videos were around capturing our capacity to produce a selection of dynamic moves and chain lock together right into a regimen that we can run over and also over again. In that case, the robot’s control system still needs to make too many of critical adjustments ~ above the fly to keep balance and also posture goals, however the robot was no sensing and also reacting come its environment.”

In this iteration of parkour, the robot is adapting actions in the repertoire based on what the sees. This way the designers don’t must pre-program jumping activities for all possible platforms and gaps the robot can encounter. Instead, the team create a smaller number of template behaviors that can be suitable to the environment and executed online.

“We decided to include the banked revolve pretty so late in our development process” claims Yeuhi Abe, a an elderly control technician on the Atlas team. “We were able come leverage tools occurred for creating jog activities in various other contexts to quickly develop a prototype the we refined using a mix of simulation and also robot testing.”

Simulation is an essential development device for the Atlas controls team, both because that evaluating new behaviors before robot testing and for ensuring that new software changes don’t negatively affect existing capabilities. But there’s tho no replacement because that hardware testing, particularly in performance-limiting movements like vaulting.

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About the vault: unlike high-flipping gymnastics vaults, a parkour vault is a slightly less flashy method designed to get a runner over a low wall surface or problem – in this situation the balance beam, only a few feet high. Atlas locations its eight on the beam and also then hoists the body end the structure. For plenty of humans, this type of vault would certainly be relatively easy (especially in comparison to a backflip), however for the Atlas team, it stood for a formidable new challenge.

“If you or ns were come vault end a barrier, we would take benefit of certain properties of our bodies that would certainly not interpret to the robot,” Kuindersma notes. “For example, the robot has no spine or shoulder blades, so that doesn’t have actually the same range of movement that friend or ns do. The robot additionally has a hefty torso and also comparatively weak eight joints. Expanding our tools to help us discover solutions that operated within these constraints to be what made the vault an interesting challenge.”