Boston Dynamics Unveils Electric Redesign of its Humanoid Atlas Robot

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Key Takeaways

  • Boston Dynamics has introduced a redesigned, electric motor-based Atlas robot.
  • The humanoid design is stronger, more agile, and may even outperform humans.
  • The company hopes to test Atlas in Hyundai's car factories.

Boston Dynamics has introduced a completely redesigned, electric version of its humanoid Atlas robot.

The machine arrived just a day after the company retired the hydraulic original. The electric motors not only make for a much sleeker Atlas design, but a robot that’s reportedly stronger and nimbler.

The electric Atlas has a much wider range of motion that helps it “exceed human capabilities,” Boston Dynamics said. As shown an early demo video, the new bot can twist its head and limbs in ways that aren’t possible for humans, let alone the first version.

Boston Dynamics also touted significant improvements in software. Atlas’ electric sequel includes new AI systems, such as computer vision and reinforcement learning, that helps them adapt to real environments.

Unlike with the hydraulic bot, the electric Atlas is built with commercialization in mind. Boston Dynamics plans to test the new design with a “small group” of customers in the years ahead, including its parent company Hyundai. The Korean corporation’s next-generation car manufacturing plants will serve as a “perfect testing ground” for the humanoid robot, Boston Dynamics said.

The rework is part of an accelerating effort to turn the company’s research projects into practical, money-making efforts. After years of development in quadruped robots, Boston Dynamics made its dog-like Spot robot available to businesses in 2019. It also introduced a Stretch warehouse robot, and built an Alaska airport’s Aurora robot for wildlife safety.

The follow-up might be vital. While Boston Dynamics was a pioneer when it readied the hydraulic Atlas in 2013, it’s now facing a host of competitors who are building general-purpose humanoid robots with commercial use in mind. Tesla’s Optimus robot is the best-known example, but relative newcomers like Apptronik’s Apollo and Sanctuary AI’s Phoenix also pose threats. If Boston Dynamics didn’t launch its electric robot, it risked losing ground to newcomers.