The incredible things Google’s new robot can do

The incredible things Google’s new robot can do

A robot’s nimble steps in a snowy forest have wowed the world’s robotics industry. Boston Dynamics, the secretive, Google-owned company, released video of its latest human-like robot tromping through a field — slipping occasionally on uneven terrain — but always catching its balance.

“They’ve set a new bar,” said Aaron Ames, a Georgia Tech robotics professor. “It’s a huge step towards getting robots that can actually operate in our world in unstructured environments on uneven terrain.”

While plenty of two-legged robots can walk, none has been able to navigate uneven, unpredictable terrain.

There are no immediate applications for the average consumer, but robotics experts say the new version of Atlas is a building block toward robots that prepare our meals, fold our laundry and care for the elderly.

“That robot is out of the lab, outdoors, with no wires. It slips, but doesn’t fall down,” said Carnegie Mellon roboticist Chris Atkeson. “We’re turning a corner in making robots better. The great unknown is when are we going to build hands and robot skin that is useful?”

Aside from the human-like ability to walk in the video, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Atlas also places boxes on shelves, opens doors and gets back up after being knocked to the ground. Such a broad range of capabilities hasn’t been seen before in one robot.

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