Scientists have released footage showing a new robot jumping and even doing a backflip as it performs a gymnastics routine.
In the video, the latest version of Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot jumps between platforms and turns in midair before sticking the landing of a perfect backflip.
The acrobatic display isn’t just about putting on a show. Humanoid robots like Atlas are difficult to keep balanced and notoriously tumble over even when walking, so performing gymnastics is a huge technological leap.
It’s hoped the biped may be useful in search and rescue operations in the future, as it is designed to negotiate tough, outdoor terrain on two legs – leaving the upper limbs free for lifting and carrying.
It can open doors, stack shelves with heavy boxes, get up after falling to the floor and, in one Boston Dynamics video, take a walk through snowy woods.
The surreal-looking stroll shows the humanoid can negotiate uneven terrain and stumble without falling over.
The engineers working on the project are big enough to admit things don’t go perfectly every time – the video ends with Atlas tumbling over a large box after a less than perfect landing.
According Boston Dynamics the robot’s uncanny skill is partly thanks to 3D printing, which means it has a high strength to weight ratio, a range of sensors and stereo vision.
Atlas is Boston Dynamics’ only biped, but the company has created a range of other robots.
Earlier this week it released a sneak preview of its upgraded Spot Mini, a four-legged robot capable of running, hopping and quickly turning on goat-like legs. The robot is designed to be used in the office and home.
In June, Google’s parent company Alphabet sold the robotics business to technology giant Softbank for an undisclosed sum.
It had been on sale for more than a year after failing to land US military contracts, on account of the noise of the robots.
The release comes as the United Nations closed talks on fully autonomous weapons, amid warnings that “time is running out” to regulate the use of what have been dubbed “killer robots”.
Groups including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) believe automated weapons should be classed as illegal.
“Given the rapid development of robotic weapon systems with ever increasing autonomy, the ICRC is convinced that internationally agreed limits are urgently needed,” Kathleen Lawland, head of the group’s arms unit, said.