Altas Does The Heavy Lifting
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 22 January 2023

In the latest video from Boston Dynamics, Atlas makes a convincing show of working on a construction site - although the footage does include a feat of gymnastics that would certainly not be appropriate in such a setting. 

Hyundai-owned Boston Robotics has two commercial robots, the Spot the quadruped and Stretch its warehouse robot. Atlas, which is described as "the world's most advanced humanoid robot" and must surely be the most expensive and the one most featured on YouTube, is under development but without any indication of being put on sale any time soon.

The new video does mark a shift in emphasis. In it we see Atlas performing the work-related feats of carrying and positioning a plank of wood and tossing a heavy tool bag. It's not a real building site, nor even a realistic set, but it's enough to make us believe that Altas might become a role model of a construction site robot - until the end when, true to its previous self, Altas performs a gymnastics feat to entertain the audience.

 

In the longer, behind-the-scenes video the Atlas team explains that the video is:

meant to communicate an expansion of the research we’re doing on Atlas”

with the acrobatics, a flip with a bunch of spins and described as "the sick trick" included to show off the roboticists' skills at achieving a clean landing.

Scott Kuindersma Boston Dynamics’ team lead on Atlas states:

“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.”

We learn from Atlas control lead Ben Stephens that the approach used is Model-Pedictive control which involves considering forces and thinking about what happens at future points in the process and that the moves we see Atlas make are tested out as a simulation prior to going live.

In this video we see what happens when Atlas get the calculations wrong - he lands in an untidy heap on the floor - a reminder that it would not be a good idea to be working alongside a robot apprentice. On the other hand, as Stephens point out, it does show that humanoid robots are capable of moving objects that are heavy and could be used in environments either too dangerous for human workers or doing work that humans don't want to do. He concludes saying:

"I really want to see robots helping out in Disaster Response scenarios - moving around in the world in ways that allow humans to be safer/happier."

Reminding us that what we want from humanoid robots s is that they should be able to do all the things that we do, Kuindersma points out that given its humanoid form factor and bi-manual nature, its ability to stand upright, move heavy things around, and work in spaces that were traditionally designed for humans to do work in, the Atlas robots are well suited for manufacturing, factory work and construction. atlasst23

 

More Information

Boston Dynamics

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 January 2023 )