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Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS Robot Is Getting Closer to Walking like a Human

ATLAS-RobotWe’ve mentioned Boston Dynamics quite a few times on the blog since they have built some of the coolest robots the world has ever seen in recent memory. Everything from their four-legged robotic animals like BigDog and WildCat to their miniature world record holder, Cheetah, Boston Dynamics has always been on the cutting edge of man-made robotics.

And now they’re giving an update on the progress they’ve made with their most famous robot—ATLAS, the humanoid, two-legged robot that dominated the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2013. But even back then, ATLAS was still moving awkwardly, clunking through its tasks with very little grace that we’d come to expect from a robot. Fast-forward a year and the progress that ATLAS has made is astounding!

With help from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), the ATLAS robot has received some serious programming updates that enable it to walk like a human with more agility and control than ever before. This video from YouTube shows ATLAS walking all over a series of cinderblocks with ease—even walking backwards without breaking a sweat. And if that’s not impressive enough, ATLAS now has the ability to walk over a pile of jumbled cinder blocks while easily maintaining its balance!

Now, as you can see from the video, ATLAS is still moving pretty slow for a robot. Maintaining balance is tackled through his onboard computer receiving information from a laser rangefinder and stereo cameras that survey and gauge the robot’s immediate surroundings. These calculations can take some time to accomplish. But according to, ATLAS’ increased coordination and expanded capabilities are important milestones to celebrate and will only improve with time to include even greater agility and eventually, speed.

Although originally built by Boston Dynamics, ATLAS is a very unique project in that multiple robotics teams around the nation can get their hands on one to test the extent of their programming skills in preparation for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The winner of the challenge will receive a 2 million dollar cash prize to continue their research. Hopefully, in the near future, ATLAS will be on the front lines of disaster stricken areas, lending a metal hand to those in need of help.

It’s so great to see technology inching its way closer and closer to the future. We can’t wait to see what new progress ATLAS and all the robots from Boston Dynamics will make in the next year. Who knows? Perhaps artificial intelligence isn’t as far off as we think!

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