On August 17, 2021, Boston Dynamics, the popular Robotics company released a video filming their very own robot doing….parkour?? Now the video is only about 1 minute long, however it’s enough to astonish you. Think about it, something inorganic, a literal humanoid robot that’s been coded, successfully completed an intense parkour course, looking both fluid and precise at the same time! It was on that day that those robots had actually completed the course correctly, which should be a massive celebration considering what it takes to have something like a computer in a exo-suit do backflips. I mean, some humans can’t even do backflips! It’s through exercises like these that Boston Dynamics can gain “a strong understanding of how to create and control a wide range of dynamic behavior on Atlas,” according to an article on the official blog. It creates amazing opportunities for the team to create newer, more updated software, and to just advance the field of robotics in general.
Now, after all of this, you’d think that the engineers would go out, celebrate, get a few drinks, party. But no, they don’t. It’s only a few moments after the shooting of the video they huddle together, share notes, make some changes, and then do another take. It may have seemed like the robots did flawlessly in the video, but not the trained eye of those that built them. After the two robots do their backflips, one was supposed to pump its arm in the air, much like big-league pitcher after a strikeout – something that the ATLAS team call “Cha-Ching.” When the robot performed this move, it stumbled a little, so little that any person watching would just brush over, and it was that stumble that got the engineers shaking their heads. “We hadn’t run that behavior after the backflip before today, so that was really an experiment,” says Scott Kuindersma, the Atlas team lead at Boston Dynamics. This attention to detail is what sets this robot apart from the rest, yet, one can’t help but ask the question “Why?” Why does it need to be so perfect? Why the backflips, the emotes, the wooden planks. Why are they using parkour. The answer is simple: Building a foundation. If a robot can act just like a human, do the things that humans do, have the same fluidity and precision that a human can do, then it’s potential is endless! If there is a possibility that us as a human race can program these humanoids to do things just as well as a human, we’ll have advanced ourselves, not just as an industrialized, modern society, but a civilization itself. No more will the futurist utopia that we project onto movies and media be just a dream or concept, we’ll be bring that idea into reality, one backflip at a time.