Here’s another thing robots can do better than you: backflips. Boston Dynamics, the MIT offshoot company now owned by Japanese tech giant SoftBank, showed off the latest iteration of their bipedal Atlas robot in a video released Thursday. At first viewing, the mobility of a 4 foot 9 inch, approximately 165-pound hydraulic machine is mind-boggling.
Atlas uses its whole body — legs, arms, torso — to perform a sequence of dynamic maneuvers that form a gymnastic routine. Boston Dynamics created the maneuvers using new techniques that streamline the development process. First, an optimization algorithm transforms high-level descriptions of each maneuver into dynamically-feasible reference motions. Then Atlas tracks the motions using a model predictive controller that smoothly blends from one maneuver to the next. Using this approach, Boston Dynamics developed the routine significantly faster than previous Atlas routines, with a performance success rate of about 80%.