Photo credit: Boston Dynamics

WATCH: Boston Dynamics “Atlas” robots get an upgrade

A new video released by MIT’s Boston Dynamics shows a bipedal humanoid robot running through a parkour obstacle course. It’s as impressive as it is scary.

In the video, two of the robots – dubbed “Atlas” – can be seen performing a variety of delicate and impressive physical feats, including running across a narrow beam, somersaulting through the air and running on slanted surfaces.

“We hadn’t run that behavior after the backflip before today, so that was really an experiment,” says Scott Kuindersma, the Atlas team lead at Boston Dynamics.

“If you watch the video closely, it looks a little awkward. We’re going to swap in a behavior we’ve tested before so we have some confidence it will work.”

Boston Dynamics, which receives funding from the US military, has also worked on dog-like four-legged robots in the past, but humanoids are just as interesting, says Kuindersma.

“Humanoids are interesting from a couple perspectives,” he said.

“First, they capture our vision of a go-anywhere, do-anything robot of the future. They may not be the best design for any particular task, but if you wanted to build one platform that could perform a wide variety of physical tasks, we already know that a human form factor is capable of doing that.”

So is the rise of the machines envisioned in the Terminator series upon us? Not just yet, say the engineers – as explained by Calvin Hennick in a Boston Dynamics blog, there are still some bugs to iron out.

“During filming, Atlas gets the vault right about half of the time,” wrote Hennick.

“A natural consequence of pushing robots to their limit is that, sometimes, those limits are met. On the other runs, Atlas makes it over the barrier, but loses its balance and falls backward, and the engineers look to the logs to see if they can find opportunities for on-the-fly adjustments.”

Still, some onlookers have their concerns, with news outlet Disclose.tv saying “In max 10 years these things will be able to hunt humans down on the streets. For now, it is all sooo funny to watch.”

One Twitter user replied saying “This is amazing innovation – what the hell is wrong with you?”

Disclose.tv ominously replied “Let’s talk in 10 years.”

Some are deeply concerned about the rapid advancement of robots and artificial intelligence technology, with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk saying in 2018 that “A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes.”

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