Boston Dynamics Robots Can Do Parkour. But What’s the Point?

Boston Dynamics Robots: In a new viral video, two Boston Dynamics robots perform parkour tactics. Although parkour is not the point; It’s all about pushing robots to their limits so they can learn human-like skills.

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By putting research robots through these seemingly foreign experiments, scientists can develop more practical commercial robots.

Parkour is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, the two latest free-running champions have no heart at all, because, you know, they’re robots.

A YouTube video released Tuesday shows two humanoid robots (both named Atlas) in a Boston Dynamics – Waltham, Massachusetts-based robotics company known for its amazing viral clips of human activity machines. Performing jumps, bounds, and back flips. Complete the parkour course.

The first robot climbs a wooden ramp, climbs stairs, and jumps a ditch several feet wide between obstacles before the second robot moves normally across the balance beam à la Simone Biles. By the end of the video, the robots have jumped on the course pieces because you can jump off the fence, perform the backflips in sync, and even blow the dust off their shoulders like it’s nothing.

It’s a scene to watch, and of course, it’s a little scary if you think about it too hard. But the real question is, why have expensive robots done such a dangerous thing before?

“Watching something dance or parkour … is much more fun than the basic testing method.”

Boston Dynamics recognizes that, due to the size of humanoid robots, it is difficult to engineer machines with the appropriate strength, weight ratio, range of motion, and physical strength required for complex activities. But then again, that’s the point. “Finally, pushing the boundaries on humanoid robots as Atlas leads to hardware and software innovation that translates all of our robots into Boston Dynamics,” the company said in an August 17 blog post.

In other words, Parkour is not the point – it’s the end.

In the world of robotics, the most important thing is to choose an ambitious “sandbox” (computer science language to test a place). Outside of simulation and the lab, the real world presents obstacles (here, literally) that a robot must be able to overcome. Realistically, if you want a healthcare robot to correct a patient while dropping medicine, or to climb a series of fallen trees on a search-and-rescue mission, you need the robot in these situations. Will need to be checked. More difficult than ever.

“The focus of these efforts is to select an application that can test the limitations of robotic hardware (and the associated control algorithms) while also being of interest to the robotics team,” said Ayana Howard, of Ohio State University. Dean of the College of Engineering. Engineering told Popular Mechanics in an email. In his work, Howard chose robot dance “as a form of emotional expression and engagement.”

Michelle Rosen – Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The Cooper Union in New York City – agrees. “This is a great field for technology to prove itself. It’s a test bed where they can rigorously review their algorithms and sequence simultaneously,” Rosen said in an email to Popular Mechanics. “It’s more fun to watch something dance or parkour than it is to see it do basic testing. That’s kind of fun for scientists too!”

And perhaps more importantly, these testing methods can inform the next generation of robots, Rosen said. “The ultimate goal, as I imagine, is a robot that can do whatever anyone wants you or me (or maybe Simon Byles) to do,” he explained. “Working algorithms and the field of action have wide implications, not just in humanoid robotics. Much progress in control algorithms and dynamic modeling has come from research at Boston Dynamics.”

Boston Dynamics Robots Can Do Parkour. But What's the Point?

Howard said Boston Dynamics may have used programming similar to “behavior-based control architecture” to eliminate Parkour’s moves in the first place. In the process, you should actively program some behavior (“which you can think of as modules”), which allows the robot to understand the surrounding environment, the current status of its joints, Or the next thing he should do is order.

“Depending on the inputs, the robot will choose from a set of stored behaviors to determine its next action/behavior,” he explained. Therefore, Atlas is not 100% independent – there is no need to be afraid that he will challenge you with his sick movements in your home. It is only programmed to perform specific actions in specific domains.

Still, testing these very specific boundaries means making mistakes. Boston Dynamics said Atlas, for example, gets about half of Parkour’s performance. But of course, doing something more practical, like distributing bullets, would be easier for this type of robot, right?

Absolutely not, Howard said. “Parkour’s mobility is more advanced, but connecting objects in the real world (such as carrying a random bullet bottle placed in a random direction while walking around in a crowded environment, which facilitates maintenance) is still an equally difficult issue (if not difficult because you are dealing with the dynamic nature of the real world environment and human behavior). ”

So hey, even if you can’t backflip, you can probably do more than the best robots on the internet.

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