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Boston Dynamics’ Fully-Electric Atlas Robot is Stronger and Creepier Than Ever

Out with the old, in with the electric! Just a day after retiring its iconic hydraulic Atlas, Boston Dynamics has generated excitement by unveiling a completely redesigned next-generation version of the humanoid Atlas robot. This new and updated fully electric Atlas now has a sleeker look, a far greater range of movement, and swivelling joints that the company says make it “uniquely capable of tackling dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks”.

With this new upgrade, Boston Dynamics wanted to show off how Atlas can still keep a humanoid form without limiting “how a bipedal robot can move”. While the new Atlas’s independent twisting and contorting movements might evoke scenes from old-school body horror movies, looks can be deceiving. Boston Dynamics says that the new Atlas robot will be “stronger, with a broader range of motion than any of our previous generations” and “will move in ways that exceed human capabilities.”

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As the robotics company says in its press release, “We designed the electric version of Atlas to be stronger, more dexterous, and more agile. Atlas may resemble a human form factor, but we are equipping the robot to move in the most efficient way possible to complete a task, rather than being constrained by a human range of motion. Atlas will move in ways that exceed human capabilities”. It seems like Boston Dynamics is also de-emphasising the humanoid aspect and focusing more on the robot’s capabilities, positioning the Atlas more as a highly capable workhorse.

The upgraded electric robot is a massive improvement over its predecessor, shedding its bulky frame and sporting a more human-like design, with no visible cables or electrical wirings. Taking a page from Tesla’s Optimus, the new Atlas now has a redesigned body with longer limbs and a straighter back. Its most striking feature is a distinct glowing “head” that can swivel for better situational awareness. Furthermore, Boston Dynamics has equipped Atlas with a suite of their latest AI and machine learning tools to help it perform tasks more efficiently.

Boston Dynamics Electric Atlas Robot | Image: Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics Electric Atlas Robot | Image: Boston Dynamics

To accompany the announcement, the company released a short 40-second video showing off Atlas’s capabilities (and flexibility). The Atlas reveal video opens with the robot seemingly motionless on its back. As the camera pans around to the robot’s rear, its legs begin to bend at the knees. This starts innocently enough, but then, in a move straight out of a horror movie, the robot effortlessly flips itself over using a clever leg maneuver. With its back still to the camera, Atlas rises to its full height, and its head spins a complete 180 degrees, followed by its torso in a smooth, synchronised motion.

Boston Dynamics Electric Atlas Robot | Image: Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics Electric Atlas Robot | Image: Boston Dynamics

Then, mirroring the head’s movement, the torso twists again as Atlas walks away from the camera, disappearing out of frame. While unveiling the new Atlas, Boston Dynamics said they envision a complete Atlas ecosystem with custom software, additional services, and ongoing support. The company also emphasised building on existing capabilities like object manipulation from the previous hydraulic Atlas, while also exploring “several new gripper variations” to adapt the robot for diverse industrial environments.

To gather real-world data, the company plans to test the new Atlas with a select group of customers, starting with Hyundai and also suggested broader ambitions for Atlas, with potential applications “in the lab, in the factory, and even in our lives.”