Robotics is a field of study I find fascinating, because not only can you see gradual improvements in design brought on by better technology each year (a perfect example of incremental innovation), but every now and again you see something that makes you realise there has been a big leap forward.
A few years ago, it was the video which showed Honda’s Asimo being able to walk up and down stairs, which was all the more impressive considering how many times it had failed in previous demonstrations (in quite spectacular fashion).
The video above was launched this week by Boston Dynamics, a part of Alphabet (which is the holding company of Google), and shows their latest iteration of their bipedal Atlas robot. You can see it doing simple tasks like opening doors and picking up and stacking shelves.
More impressively though, it managed to walk on snow without falling over (something which even I struggle with sometimes), and adjust itself in real time when something went wrong (in this case, a mean human pushing a box it was carrying out of its arms).
Finally, you see it able to get back up after the human hits it so hard with a pole that it falls to the ground (this is after all a robot designed to stay stable).
The reason research like this is so impressive is that it shows robots are now starting to be designed to handle the imperfect real world outside of the laboratory. A robot is of no use if it gets stuck the first time someone clumsy bumps into it or knocks it off course. And demonstrations like this show that progress is being made.
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