Watch Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot do parkour like a pro

Watch Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot do parkour like a pro

Robotics company also shows off new video of Spot, the robo-dog

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There's always something a bit unnerving about videos of Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot, and the latest highlights reel is no different.

Not only can the robot, known as Atlas, walk, run and backflip like a human, it now does a pretty good job of parkour too, leaping from one obstacle to another, expertly transferring its weight as it chases you in your nightmares.

Sorry, but it's easy to come over a bit Black Mirror when writing about the robots produced by Boston Dynamics. Japan's Softbank acquired Boston Dynamics from Alphabet, parent company of Google and the Waymo autonomous car firm in 2017.

The video shows off how the latest model of Atlas has enough computer processing power - and clear enough vision - to spot objects, identify a route up and over them, and use its limbs to leap from one 40cm-high step to the next.

The company said: "The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace...Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately."

Although such a robot only really exists to show off Boston Dynamics' technology for now, it isn't difficult to see how such a machine could be used in the future. The robot could, for instance, navigate environments too dangerous for humans, such as the scene of a building collapse or other natural disaster where an ability to leap over uneven objects is required.

Atlas is 1.5 meters tall, weight 75kg, has 28 joints and can carry a payload weighing up to 11kg.

The same day this week, Boston Dynamics published a new video of Spot, its dog-like four-legged robot. Also straying fairly close to a Black Mirror episode - specifically, season four, episode five, Metalhead - Spot has "begun field testing for commercial usage around the world", the company says.

The robot is shown walking around a construction site, up stairs and along corridors unaided.

Boston Dynamics said: "After an initial mapping run, Spot autonomously two dynamic construction sites in Tokyo and used a specialized payload for surveying work progress. An additional camera in its hand lets Spot do even more details inspection work on site."

The company says Spot will be available in the second half of 2019 "for a variety of applications."

Fuelling your nightmares hopefully won't be one of them.

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