If you wake up every morning stressed about whether or not this is the day robots will decide to overthrow humanity, Boston Dynamics has shared a video that should provide some peace of mind: a highlight reel of its multi-million dollar Atlas robot hilariously failing and falling at parkour, which, it turns out, happens far more often than a successful run.
Boston Dynamics recently shared video of Atlas, its impressively capable human-like robot that can run, jump, and even backflip off platforms, successfully completing a run through a complex simulated parkour course that the robot had been trying to execute perfectly for several months. There’s not a lot of practical use in designing and programming a robot to do a parkour run (few industrial robots perform backflips), but the sport is challenging for even the most physically fit human athletes, and a course like this represents a potential worst case scenario for a robot made to navigate a world designed for humans.
It goes without saying that designing a robot to be as agile as a human is a huge undertaking, and then programming it to behave and move like a human is even harder. Atlas is arguably one of the most complex robots ever created, and as Boston Dynamics explained today, seemingly anything and everything that could go wrong will, including random hydraulic fluid leaks and bolts that come apart as the 190-pound robot makes hard landings.
But Atlas’s creators are prepared for these mishaps; it’s a big part of being on the cutting edge of robotics and testing a robot that’s primarily designed as a research tool. It breaks, and it breaks often, but every time it does it’s an opportunity to improve Atlas’s design so that, in another year, the company will release be able to release videos demonstrating unbelievable new skills the bot has mastered.
Atlas’s moves are so close to a human’s that at this point, while you’re laughing uncontrollably when the robot slips off a platform, you might also find yourself feeling slightly sympathetic for the bot and hoping the damage from the crash isn’t too severe. It rarely walks away from a fall—a team of technicians usually wheels in a small crane to get it off the ground and back into the lab for repairs—but so far what hasn’t killed Atlas has only made it more capable.