30 Years of Boston Dynamics
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 13 November 2022

To mark 30 years since it was founded by Marc Raibert in 1992 Boston Dynamics has posted a video that celebrates its 30 years of innovation, exploration, and collaboration. As well as showcasing today's Atlas and Spot and Stretch there are clips of Big Dog, Wild Cat and early robots from the Leg Laboratory. 

The Leg Laboratory, a research lab that set out to explore robot locomotion inspired by the remarkable ability of animals to move with agility, dexterity, perception and intelligence, was the forerunner of Boston Dynamics was founded by Marc Raibert in1980 at Carnegie Mellon University where he was Associate Professor in Computer Science and the Robotics Institute. It moved to MIT in 1986 when Raibert became Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science there. Six years later Raibert cofounded Boston Dynamics with Nancy Cornelius, who joined the company as its first employee and left when it was acquired by Google in 2013, and Robert Playter who joined a few months later, as soon as he completed his PhD thesis at MIT, and is now its CEO.

Although this clip show is less than a minute in length it features several generations of robots spanning the entire 30 years of its history.

leglab 3dbiped


The first three clips are of Leg Laboratory robots from a monopod, jumping robot to the 3D Biped, whose gymnastic maneuvers were the topic of Plater's PhD thesis. Then there's footage of Big Dog, a quadruped robot that was the first physical robot built by Boston Dynamics. There are several generations of Atlas, including one in a hazard suit from the era when it  participated in the DARPA challenge. There are clips that chart the evolution of Boston Dynamics quadruped robots and along the way we meet a wheg, a wheel leg, model.

While Boston Dynamics has been passed around - Google sold it to Softbank in 2017 and in 2020 Hyundai Motor Group acquired an 80% stake in the company from SoftBank for approximately $880 million dollars - it has preserved its own identity. It's involvement with DARPA, and before that with the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, gave it a military outlook but it has largely shaken that off over recent years to be replaced by a somewhat whimsical air - characterized by Atlas Does Parkour and Spot showing off dance moves.

If you want to be entertained by Robots here's the latest robot musical in which seven Spots, the Boston Dynamics' commercially available robot dog perform a choreographed routine to BTS’ hit song Permission to Dance. There is also a cameo from Atlas:

To consolidate its non-militaristic position, last month Boston Dynamics signed a pledge saying it would not support any weaponization of its robotic creations and was joined by five other firms.  

More Information

MIT Leg Laboratory

Boston Dynamics

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Atlas the Gymnast, Spot the Quadruped

Atlas Robot - The Next Generation

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 13 November 2022 )