Okay, that’s not exactly what happened, but Google-owned Boston Dynamics has released a new video of the latest incarnation of their Atlas robot, showcasing it’s capabilities for balance, navigating rough terrain, handling objects, and even getting back up after being knocked over. And all of this is accomplished while the robot is untethered.
Slimmed down to a 180-lb, 5’9" — quite svelte compared to it’s previous 6-foot form — the video shows the new Atlas model leaving the office to take a stroll through the snowy woods, using LiDAR and stereo cameras to "avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects".
Back at work, the robot demonstrates it’s ability to recognize and manipulate objects, and to keep it’s balance, despite some forceful interference from one of the video’s human demonstrators, including springing back up after being knocked over from behind. This may have been the last straw: the video closes with a shot of Atlas opening a door and leaving the building — you can only push a ‘bot so far.
Robotic designs like Atlas are being developed to take over from humans in arduous and dangerous jobs, as illustrated in the DARPA Robotics Challenge held in 2014. The competition put many robotic designs, including 7 Atlas-based contestants, through their paces in a simulated search and rescue scenario. They can also fill in for where there are a shortage of human workers: in Japan, specialty robots that can take care of the elderly are being developed, as it is expected that in the near future there won’t be enough people left in the workforce to provide care for them.