ATLAS, THE HULKING humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics, now does backflips. I’ll repeat that. It’s a hulking humanoid that does backflips. Check out the video below, because it shows a hulking humanoid doing a backflip. And that’s after it leaps from platform to platform, as if such behavior were becoming of a bipedal robot.
To be clear: Humanoids aren’t supposed to be able to do this. It’s extremely difficult to make a bipedal robot that can move effectively, much less kick off a tumbling routine. The beauty of four-legged robots is that they balance easily, both at rest and as they’re moving, but bipeds like Atlas have to balance a bulky upper body on just two legs. Accordingly, you could argue that roboticists can better spend their time on non-human forms that are easier to master.
But there’s a case to be made for Atlas and the other bipeds like Cassie (which walks more like a bird than a human). We live in a world built for humans, so there may be situations where you want to deploy a robot that works like a human. If you have to explore a contaminated nuclear facility, for instance, you’ll want something that can climb stairs and ladders, and turn valves. So a humanoid may be the way to go…
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