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Meet the team behind one of the world’s most impressive humanoid robots

Boston Dynamics has offered a fascinating look inside the workshop at the center of its astonishing Atlas robot.

A six-minute video from the Massachusetts-based robotics team highlights Atlas’s various skills that enable it to move just like a human.

We also get to see the team tinkering with five-foot-tall Atlas as they tirelessly hone its existing abilities while also adding new ones.

Inside the lab: How does Atlas work?

A big focus of the Atlas team is parkour, a training discipline that involves tackling an obstacle course. No, it’s not for the roboticists to keep fit. Rather, it’s a task designed to push Boston Dynamics’ bipedal robot to its limit as it hops and leaps between the various challenges.

And yes, there are plenty of trips and tumbles along the way but every mishap helps the team to further improve Atlas’s abilities.

“Robots crash a lot, it’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour,” Boston Dynamics’ Benjamin Stephens explains in the video. “It’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video where an athlete has practiced these moves dozens or hundreds of times to get to that exciting capability, so we’re kind of doing the same thing with Atlas, exploring how to push it to its limits.”

You can check out Atlas’s most recent parkour run below, and highly impressive it is too.

Atlas | Partners in Parkour

Stephens describes Atlas as “a platform for us to do R&D on,” adding, “As an Atlas team we’re encouraged to push that platform to its limits, like do the most crazy, exciting, high-powered stuff we can do with it, and so we’re always expanding and pushing the limits of Atlas’s capabilities, then hopefully by extension, extending the capabilities of the company as well.”

Considering the team’s focus on R&D, it’s perhaps little surprise that Atlas is yet to follow in the footsteps of Spot, Boston Dynamics’ robot dog that’s now commercially available for a range of tasks across various industries. But if Atlas does ever find a role outside the workshop, deployments could include search and rescue operations across challenging terrain, or the exploration of potentially hazardous facilities such as nuclear power plants.

Atlas and Spot made a rare joint appearance at the end of last year when they performed a dazzling dance routine to The Contours’ Do You Love Me in another demonstration of the robots’ remarkable skills.

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Trevor Mogg
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