Atlas robot demonstrates sense of balance via new algorithm

Remember Atlas, the would-be robot solider being developed by Boston Dynamics (the robotics experts acquired by Google at the close of last year)?

Well, Atlas is back in the media spotlight (spotted by Engadget), and this time he’s doing tricks. The bot isn’t quite juggling hand grenades (not yet), but it is making an impressive effort at having a supreme sense of balance.

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition has provided Atlas with a balance algorithm which you can see in action in the video above. Standing atop a pile of bricks on one leg, Kung-fu style, the robot moves its arms up and down, and makes minute adjustments to its limbs to keep it in place. At the end it extends a leg, and you can just imagine this thing doing a front snap kick.

It’s all a little sinister, particularly with the noises of the machine and screeching alarm (or whatever it is) in the background. A chilling vision from the present, with more to come…

Where Google is going with all its robotics expertise is anyone’s guess, but in an article from last year, Sebastian Anthony imagined the firm combining computer vision (i.e. Google Glass) with machine learning and robotics to create fully functional androids. Who will then, of course, take over the world, destroy our great monuments, and balance perfectly on top of the shards of the Statue of Liberty’s head while surveying the blasted, desolate landscape around them. Perhaps.