Boston Dynamics Retires Its Hydraulic Atlas Humanoid Robot

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Key Takeaways

  • Boston Dynamics retires its Atlas robot, initially designed for disaster rescue, after a decade of advancements.
  • Atlas evolved from basic mobility to performing complex maneuvers like jumps and flips, with its progress showcased in selective demos.
  • Despite retiring Atlas amid growing competition from advanced humanoid robots, Boston Dynamics continues developing other robotic models.

Boston Dynamics has revealed that it’s retiring the hydraulic Atlas humanoid robot it unveiled in July 2013.

The company didn’t explain why it was ending use of Atlas, but said it was time for the hydraulic robot to “kick back and relax.” The brand shared a video (below) highlighting its automaton’s highlights throughout the years, including failures that showed its limitations.

The machine was originally built for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which was meant to spur development of disaster rescue robots. Atlas was barely capable of walking and fell often, but it was still ahead at a time when human-like automatons were still very new.

Over time, Boston Dynamics improved Atlas to the point where it could perform complex maneuvers such as jumps and flips. The company’s popular demo videos were often tightly choreographed and didn’t usually include the bots’ missteps, but they showed a design that was quickly becoming practical for work.

TechCrunch noted that a February video hinted at possible “real work” that combined Atlas’ agility and strength with modern perception technology. It’s not known if the company was serious about selling its design.

Boston Dynamics (which Hyundai bought in 2021) is still commercializing its Spot and Stretch robots, and has built custom models like Alaska Airport’s Aurora. This also doesn’t rule out a follow-up humanoid robot with more advanced capabilities.

Even so, the timing is unusual. The pioneer is facing heated competition in the humanoid robot space, including Apptronik’s Apollo, Sanctuary AI’s Phoenix, and Tesla’s Optimus. These newer entrants are increasingly geared around truly autonomous operation and for handling a wide range of tasks. Boston Dynamics is retiring Atlas right as many rival robots are just coming into their own.