Wait, did I just see Atlas robot do a backflip?

Wait, did I just see Atlas do a backflip?
(Tech Xplore)—Boston Dynamics is now part of SoftBank and their family of robots is getting lots of attention as the year draws to an end—from gee-whiz reactions to their recent showing of a bright-yellow plate display on SpotMini to outright gasps this week over a video showing a newer Atlas.

Some even wondered if it was fake news. And an oh-so-smart reader comment on Wired said man in a robot suit, oldest trick in the book.

The global reactions to the Atlas video all suggest this is an unexpected biped wonder. We knew Atlas had progressed, could walk indoors and out, and looked tough and strong enough to weather any rescue operation or trek in danger's way—but now this video came as a surprise.

The new Atlas does backflips (no, really). And with a gymnast's flair.

Jay Bennett in Popular Mechanics: "After adroitly jumping over some obstacle boxes, the humanoid robot leaps up onto a box that looks to be about 3 feet tall. Then it does a 180 degree spin, plants the landing, and finally proceeds to do a backflip off the platform and land on a gymnastics mat. 10 out of 10."

PCMag's UK-based editor and news reporter, Matthew Humphries: "What I noticed from watching the video above is how human-like the body movement is. ... If Boston Dynamics can slim down the frame of Atlas and fit it in typical human clothing, it won't be too much longer before it's hard to tell the difference between a human and robot body."

Boston Dynamics' November 16 video had no details in the video notes section but the itself clearly indicates progress in this humanoid robot.

Atlas is so agile now; it bends its knees and jumps from platform to platform to block and tops the act off with a gasp-inducing back-flip.

Never thought that I will see something like that in my lifetime! said one reader comment.

Wired thought up the compliment, "full-tilt insane." Atlas has been making incremental improvements for a while. "Over the years, it's grown not only more backflippy but lighter and more dextrous and less prone to fall on its face," said Matt Simon in Wired.

David Szondy in New Atlas flipped us back in detail with advancements seen in Atlas—as in 2015 when Atlas, "developed with the help of DARPA and showcased at the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge, impressed onlookers simply because it could walk and climb stairs without a tether or crashing to the floor every other step." Additional feats: balancing on one leg, moving outdoors under its own power.

With new hydraulic systems and internal sensors Atlas "developed a remarkable sense of balance," said Szondy, recovering if a human tried to knock it down.

In earlier days of biped robots, it was impressive to see them noisily lumber along in stepping forward, like crude machine parts with humanoid limbs. Then they impressed us as robots were engineered to bend their knees as humans do on the move. Simon reminded readers that it is "extremely difficult" to do what you see Atlas doing—balancing the upper body through it all, with two machine legs.

MIT Technology Review's "The Download" would agree. "Anyone who's tried to do a backflip will know that it's not easy, especially the landing. It requires dexterity, poise, and balance—all things that have typically been lacking in . But Boston Dynamics has shown that, while it might not be easy and certainly seemed a distant hope two years ago, it's now perfectly possible for a to display such skills." The Download," posted by Jamie Condliffe on Friday, also said, "That has profound implications for what robots might be able to do in the future."


Explore further

New-look robot from Boston Dynamics is more sleek than 'Eek'

© 2017 Tech Xplore

Citation: Wait, did I just see Atlas robot do a backflip? (2017, November 18) retrieved 16 December 2018 from https://techxplore.com/news/2017-11-atlas-robot-backflip.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
127 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 18, 2017
They added more power to the actuators and more processing speed to the CPU, but still the robot stands with bent knees. They're still struggling with implementing passive dynamics, so the robot spends a ton of extra energy in maintaining stability.

Active dynamic walking consumes roughly 4x the energy because the actuators are actively supporting the mass of the robot. Just try walking around with your knees bent - it gets tiring really quickly. Locking the knee straight saves this energy, but introduces an unstable system with kinematic singularities that needs greater predictive power from the CPU than they appear to have.

So, same old same old. This is still a gimmick.

Nov 18, 2017
Eikka dismisses the backflip and, what's more incredible, the balancing and recovery by using the arms, because in his mind the bent knees are wasteful.

What is this compulsion to reject the obvious? I think it's called old man syndrome.

Hey eikka when we do backflip and hops we do so with bent knees.

Nov 18, 2017
Here's one from Samsung back in 2012 that solves your problem.

"Roboray's legs are powered by a combination of harmonic drive actuators and compliant tendon-driven actuators, all of which are torque controlled. The compliant joints are used in the hips, knees, and ankles, and have a certain amount of give that can be tightened or relaxed. Unlike earlier robots that walk with bent knees, the compliant joints can absorb impacts, which give it a more natural and energy efficient walking gait."

-Innovation often requires baby steps you know.

Nov 18, 2017
@Eikka: Bent knees doesn't necessarily use more power than straight ones. Just add a spring!

Nov 19, 2017
"@Eikka: Bent knees doesn't necessarily use more power than straight ones. Just add a spring!"


The question is whether the knee joint locks mechanically, or whether the actuators are applying constant torque to the joint. Suspending the robot on a spring would let the actuators ease off the constant torque, but it will introduce the computing problem of balancing the robot passively.

"and, what's more incredible, the balancing and recovery"


But all that is not new - it's just done faster than before here, so the robot can actually recover from a jump in real time.

"Here's one from Samsung back in 2012 that solves your problem."


The problem has been solved indeed, but Boston Dynamics seems to be rehashing the old thing over and over.

Nov 19, 2017
It's not a muscle system, it's hydraulic actuators based and doesn't need any power when it's in a fixed position. All they have to do is to close a valve, it's a sort of programmable elastic system that can stop in any position

Nov 20, 2017
"The problem has been solved indeed, but Boston Dynamics seems to be rehashing the old thing over and over"

-And I'm sure they're aware of the Samsung tech? So we ask ourselves why they aren't incorporating it, along with other such advances, and we conclude that this is not a general purpose machine but one designed to explore specific situations and develop specific tech of its own.

And they don't need locked joints to do this.

Nov 20, 2017
the jumps are hydraulic-powered? servo proportional valves can do that now?
Article unfortunately has zero information, any links to specs?

Nov 22, 2017
the jumps are hydraulic-powered? servo proportional valves can do that now?
Article unfortunately has zero information, any links to specs?
Yeah here's one
https://www.google.com

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more