Old Robots Never Die…

Atlas, the humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics, is retiring. It is being decommissioned and installed in the company’s museum. They shared a video that shows Atlas running, jumping, doing gymnastics, and also falling down, getting into a fix with an elevator, and otherwise failing.

The new Atlas

After a decade of service, Atlas has been sent out to pasture and replaced by a new robot, also called Atlas. The new Atlas is sleeker, smarter, and intended to compete with the new generation of humanoid robots.

The new Atlas also has a job. It’s being produced with an intention to support automotive manufacturing, starting with Hyundai. The old Atlas just ran around doing parkour and dancing, but the new one is expected to perform practical tasks.

It’s not limited to human-like movements. It swivels and reorients itself without any need to copy human movements. Since it actually looks quite a bit more human than the old Atlas, it’s kind of creepy to watch this.

But it does look like a real improvement on the old Atlas. It’s electric, not hydraulic, and it has AI-powered learning capacity. The makers say that it is stronger, and it certainly looks lighter.

The object is to create a practical robotic product that can navigate human environments without the limitations of humans.

Humanoids on the way

We’re still not convinced that humanoid robots are better in industrial situations than those that are more clearly purpose-built for their jobs. But it is unquestionable that humanoid robots are having a moment — people are more interested in them than in ordinary industrial robots, if nothing else.

Atlas was one of the earliest humanoid robots, an early DARPA project that saw the light in 2013. No wonder Boston Dynamics decided to build on that legacy, even to the point of using the famous name for their brand.

Time will tell which of the robots ends up being the most practical and competitive.

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