Scared yet? Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot can now jog freely

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot has been untethered and set free, which, for anyone convinced of an imminent robot uprising, is a rather worrying development.

A video posted on YouTube this week shows the humanoid robot running at a fair clip across open land before jumping over a log that it finds in its path.

It’s impressive stuff, and shows just how far bipedal robots have come in a short space of time. For proof, check out this amusing compilation video from a contest in 2015 showing a bunch of similarly designed robots looking as if they’ve spent a night drinking as they simply try to walk, let alone break into a jog à la Atlas.

To be honest, it’s not the most impressive thing we’ve seen Atlas do. Last November, for example, we were treated to a video of the robot performing a perfect backflip. Pretty astonishing for a 5-foot-9-inch, 180-pound machine.

Atlas hasn’t always been so clever, though. Last August, two videos surfaced showing the robot taking a tumble, once on stage when it tripped over a light and again during a shelf-stacking demonstration.

SpotMini goes for a walk

Boston Dynamics also released a video (below) showing its SpotMini “robot dog” navigating a specified route through its office and lab facility. The team said that before the walk, it led the robot along the route manually so it could build up a map of the course using cameras mounted on its front, back, and sides.

“During the autonomous run, SpotMini uses data from the cameras to localize itself in the map and to detect and avoid obstacles,” Boston Dynamics said in notes accompanying the video.

The walk lasted just over six minutes, with the company keen to point out that the QR codes visible in the video are for measuring performance, and are not a navigation aid.

Boston Dynamics has built a stellar reputation in recent years, designing amazingly capable robots, among them BigDog, WildCat, Handle, SpotMini, and Atlas.

The team’s long-term plans for the robots aren’t really clear, but their extraordinary agility and skill means their technologies could one day be applied across a range of industries, possibly sooner rather than later judging by their current abilities. For the time being, Boston Dynamics says it’s keen to continue developing “machines that break boundaries, and work in the real world.”

Emerging Tech

Robot janitors will soon be scrubbing the floors at your local Walmart

Hundreds of robot janitors will soon be working at Walmart stores across the U.S. The company says the autonomous floor scrubbers will free its human staff from monotonous tasks so they can spend more time helping customers.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The robot waiters in this Japanese cafe are controlled by people with paralysis

An innovative new Japanese popup cafe is staffed by robot waiters, controlled from home by people with paralysis. Here's everything you need to know about this unusual, intriguing project.
Emerging Tech

This exotic new material somehow gets thicker when stretched

Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Leeds have discovered a synthetic material which actually gets thicker the more it’s stretched. Here are some of the things it could be used for.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!