It’s been a few months since we heard anything new from the notoriously secretive robotics company Boston Dynamics, but according to a newly released video, the organization clearly hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Earlier this month, the company’s founder, Marc Reibert, gave a presentation at the FAB 11 Conference at MIT — a presentation that happened to feature some unreleased footage of what the company has been working on lately.
The first bot in the video is definitely the weirdest. It’s essentially a modified version of the company’s newest robotic dog (Spot) outfitted with a “manipulator” arm on its face. This freakish new appendage gives the normally handless robot the ability to grasp objects and execute complex tasks, such as grabbing a knob, turning it, and pushing open a door.
Even more impressive than the arm-face bot, however, is BD’s new-and-improved ATLAS bot. In the video, the bipedal humanoid bot is shown taking a stroll through the woods — something it wasn’t previously able to do. While the company’s quadrupedal bots like BigDog and Spot have long been capable of traversing outdoor environments, ATLAS has thus far been confined to a lab.
“We’re interested in getting this robot out into the world,” Reibert explains. “[Being] out in the world is a totally different challenge than [being] in the lab — you can’t predict what its going to be like. All kinds of stuff happens out there, and we’re making pretty good progress on making [the robot] so that it has mobility that’s sort of within shooting range of yours. I’m not saying it can do all the things you can do, but you can imagine that if we keep pushing, we’ll get there.”
The most interesting part of Reibert’s presentation wasn’t the new video footage, though — it was the slides he gets to afterward. Toward the end of his presentation, Reibert offers up a glimpse at BD’s “vision for the future” — a new construction approach that does away with clunky limb design of the company’s first-generation bots. Rather than using a bunch of parts, motors, and hydraulic components bundled together to create a robot’s limb, BD has plans to use 3D-printed legs/arms with hydraulic components built directly into their structure. Check out the picture above.
“I can’t show you the robot yet, but we’re pursuing this pretty aggressively,” Reibert says, “and I think by the end of the year, you’ll see robots from us that use an approach of fabrication that’s more like that.”
Check out the whole presentation here — it’s definitely worth a watch.
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