Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot shows off parkour skills

The agile humanoid is learning to use its whole body to leap higher than ever

The remarkable evolution of Atlas, Boston Dynamics’ most agile robot, continues. In a video posted today, Atlas is seen jumping over a log and leaping up steps like a parkour runner.

The robot has come a long way. Two years ago, Boston Dynamics, led by Marc Raibert, unveiled a massive upgrade of the original Atlas, which had been used by multiple teams at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015.

The next-gen Atlas could walk on snow, pick up boxes, and even get up by itself after a fall:

Late last year, after a quiet period, Boston Dynamics surprised everyone with a video that I initially thought was CGI: Atlas jumping up and down boxes and even doing a backflip:

Then earlier this year, a new video showed Atlas running and jumping over obstacles at a park:

And now, parkour.

In a brief description of today’s video, Boston Dynamics explains that the robot is using its full body not only to balance but also to propel itself up the steps:

The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace.  (Step height 40 cm.)  Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.

Compare parkour Atlas to the Atlas from five years ago:

What will Atlas be doing five years from now?


By Erico Guizzo / Senior Editor

[email protected]

Erico Guizzo is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. He has written stories on a wide range of science and technology topics, including Japanese androids, French computer codes, Icelandic video games, American crash-test dummies, and Canadian bacteria. His main area of interest is robotics, and he has written and edited hundreds of articles and videos featuring the latest advances in this field. He is also the cocreator of Spectrum’s critically acclaimed Robots for iPad app. For his robotics coverage, Guizzo has won four Neal Awards and has been a finalist for two National Magazine Awards. An IEEE member, he holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo, in his native Brazil, and a master’s in science writing from MIT.

(Source:; October 11, 2018;
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