SpotMini in office facility

Wandering dog and jumping humanoid robots revealed by Boston Dynamics

Image credit: Boston Dynamics

The Massachusetts-based engineering and robots company has released two videos demonstrating the ever-improving abilities of its dog- and human-inspired robots.

Boston Dynamics gained prominence when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) funded the development of a large, agile quadruped robot, BigDog, to assist with military operations by carrying heavy loads across rough terrains. The company was acquired by X (formerly Google X) in 2013, which then sold the company to Japan’s SoftBank Group in 2017.

It has since made headlines with its sophisticated and ‘creepy’ biomimetic robots (robots inspired by biology) including a cheetah-style robot (which can run at 45km/h) and the SandFlea (which can catapult itself 9.1m into the air vertically).

In one of Boston Dynamics’ recent videos, its bipedal humanoid robot, Atlas, is depicted jogging and jumping outdoors. Atlas was designed for search and rescue tasks and has already demonstrated great resilience to obstacles and other practical challenges, being able to get up after being knocked over, perform backflips, walk over rubber, use wheels to whizz across rooms and run outdoors while tethered.

The ability to work around unexpected complications in a new and disorderly environment is vital for search and rescue robots and is a considerable challenge for roboticists and computer scientists.

The newest iteration of Atlas has 28 joints, is shorter and lighter than its predecessors and is notable for being able to jog outdoors without tethering. In the video, Atlas jogs on grass, swinging its arms and kicking its legs back naturalistically. When it reaches a large fallen log, it bends its knees to prepare to jump, swings its arms while jumping and then braces its knees as it lands.

In a second video, Boston Dynamics shows off the navigational abilities of SpotMini, a small dog-inspired quadruped robot. The robot uses a digital map to walk through the Boston Dynamics offices alone, avoiding obstacles such as chairs, fire extinguishers and employees. It walks outdoors briefly, then enters a lab facility to climb up and down stairs.

Before the recorded run, SpotMini was driven through the spaces such that it could use its cameras to build up a map of the facilities, such that when it returns, it is able to match live data from its cameras to identify where it is within the facility.

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