February 7, 2023

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Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot grows a bunch of hands, trying construction work

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas – the world’s most advanced robot – learns some new tricks. The company finally gave Atlas some proper hands, and in Boston Dynamics latest youtube videoAtlas tries to do some actual work. Another was also released Behind the scenes video Presentation of some of the works included in the atlas. And when things don’t go well, we see some amazing robot strikes in its efforts to develop humanoid robots.

As a robot, Atlas focused mostly on movement, starting with walking in a lab, then walking over every kind of unstable terrain imaginable, and then doing some Parkour tricks are sick. With that said, the action is all about the legs, and the upper half mostly feels like an afterthought, with the arms only used to swing for balance. Atlas did not have it previously hands –Last time we saw her, there were only two incomplete ball knobs at the end of her arms.

This newer iteration of the robot has the two actual grippers. They’re simple clip-on hands with one movable wrist and finger, but that’s good enough to pick things up. The goal of this video is to move objects of “inertial significance”—not just light squares, but objects so heavy that they could unbalance Atlas. This includes things like a large plank, a bag full of tools, and a 10-pound barbell. Atlas learns all about those “equal and opposite forces” in the world.

Like everything in robotics, picking up and carrying an object is more complicated than it looks. Atlas has to figure out his place in the world in relation to the object he’s picking up, come up with a grasping plan for the hands, and lift and manipulate the object, all while calculating how that extra bit of mass will affect his balance. As Boston Dynamics software engineer Robin Deits explains in the video, “When we try to manipulate something like a plank, we just have to make educated guesses about where the plank is, how fast it’s moving, how we need to move the arms to get the plank to rotate 180 degrees so quickly, and if we get it wrong… These estimates, we’ll end up doing silly things and falling over.”

But Atlas isn’t just about picking things up and carrying them clumsily. He runs, jumps and spins while carrying heavy objects. At one point it jumps throws The heavy toolbox of her construction partner, all without losing balance. She does all this on rickety scaffolding and also improvised wooden walkways, so the ground is constantly moving under Atlas’ feet with every step. Picking up objects is the beginning of teaching a robot to do actual work, and it seems right at home on a rough construction site. A simple claw clutch means that Atlas crushes everything it picks up, with things like a plank showing visible damage as hands dug into it. Perhaps the next set of experiments will teach Atlas to be less than a giant gorilla.

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