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The All-Electric Atlas: From Hydraulics to Next-Gen Humanoid

company logo for Boston Dynamics Boston Dynamics

Country: United States of America

Year: 2024

Summary

Boston Dynamics' Atlas moves beyond hydraulic limits into the next era of electric-powered humanoids with greater power & range of motion

Status: Research

Operation: Autonomous

Robot Type / Domain: Multi/General-Purpose, Research, Industrial

Tasks: Industrial Applications, Manufacturing, Logistics, Dexterous Tasks, & More

Whimsical Intro (by addoobot)

Ever wondered if a robot can match human flexibility in executing a perfect yoga pose? The new electric-powered Atlas from Boston Dynamics isn't just flexible enough for yoga; it's redefining what flexibility means. Discover how Atlas is bending the rules.

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Introduction to Atlas and the Shift from Hydraulic to Electric

Boston Dynamics, the company that brought us the robots we love, the iconic Atlas and Spot, has made a groundbreaking shift from a hydraulic-powered Atlas to a fully electric-powered Atlas. Substantial advances in electric motors and batteries have been made over the past decade or so. These advancements enable an efficient all-electric design for Atlas, resulting in a more agile and compact humanoid that meets modern expectations for working in human environments. 

But the new electric Atlas isn't starting from scratch — it is built on the success of its hydraulic predecessor. The hydraulic Atlas benefited from the rich experience and expertise of Boston Dynamics that was obtained through decades of groundbreaking innovations, research, experiments, and practical deployments. Now, the modern successor, the Electric Atlas, stands to benefit from these experiences and expertise. It is built with the anticipation that it will be deployed in complex real-world environments in the near future. 

Electric Atlas: Sleek Design Meets Advanced Functionality

At first glance, the new electric Atlas impresses with its slimmer and more contemporary design. However, the changes are not just cosmetic. It is designed to seamlessly handle the complexities that come with performing real-world tasks, such as manufacturing, assembling, and pick-and-place tasks. Not only is it designed to have exceptional dexterity and agility to traverse challenging environments but also to handle heavy, delicate, or complex objects with grace and mastery. Part of what enables it to have such abilities is that it has a range of motion beyond the limitations of human flexibility. 

Software: The Brain Behind Electric Atlas

Having great hardware that enables the electric Atlas to have incredible performance, such as exceptional range of motion, is just part of the story. Software developments have been pivotal at Boston Dynamics across all their services and products, including Atlas, Spot, and Stretch. Algorithmic and software developments are vital for tasks such as advanced perception (to see and understand the environment) and real-time control (to adapt to unforeseen changes and overcome challenges in dynamic environments). Thus, Atlas is designed to be not just a masterpiece in terms of hardware, but also a highly intelligent humanoid that meets practical needs.  

Commercialization and Practical Application of Electric Atlas

Boston Dynamics isn't new to the product commercialization landscape. Take their mobile robot, Spot, as an example. Spot has become a commercial success story and is widely utilized in various industries from industrial inspection to search and rescue. This success has allowed Boston Dynamics to gather valuable data and experience across these industries. Thus, this data and experience, crucial in moving from research and development to commercial viability, will also be key to the success of the electric-powered Atlas.

The new Atlas is set to first roll out in partnership with a select group of customers. This decision enables Boston Dynamics to improve Atlas over time and fine-tune its operation in real and complex scenarios before it is scaled up for broader commercial distribution. Collaborations are set to start with Hyundai, providing rigorous real-world testing grounds for the electric Atlas.

Brief History

Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2013, the hydraulic-powered Atlas program was first introduced to the public as a part of a DARPA-funded initiative. Atlas was never commercialized but it was a humanoid robot that kept shocking robotic lovers around the world time after time with its great capabilities such as running, doing backflips, and even engaging in parkour. The hydraulic Atlas was retired in April 2024 and replaced with its better and more powerful successor, the electric-powered Atlas, designed with commercialization in mind. 

Technical Specifications

• Lifting/manipulating heavy & irregular object

• New gripper to meet diverse commercial needs

• To operate efficiently in complex environment

Battery Operated? Yes

Locomotion Type: Legs/Walking

No more specs to show.

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Comment by addoobot - Our Perspective

For a long time, we've been curious about whether Boston Dynamics would unveil a more modern-looking humanoid, given their pioneering status in humanoids and robotics. Then, suddenly—boom! They certainly did not disappoint. What's particularly eye-catching about the new atlas is its great range of joint motion as evident in the first unveiling video by Boston Dynamics. While the extensive range of motions can appear a bit uncanny because of the human factor, from a practical standpoint, it's definitely impressive and functional.

addoorable score:
8.50/10
Although the robot may not fit the traditional definition of 'addoorable,' it has a modern charm that's quite appealing—particularly its head. Unlike other humanoids with heads that mimic human features, this one opts for a simple yet aesthetically pleasing design, which we really appreciate.

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