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Artificial intelligence

Yes, Atlas is running, but please don’t panic

A new video shows the world’s most advanced humanoid robot running merrily through fields and leaping over logs. It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, but don’t be too alarmed: there are still some significant limitations.

Run: Boston Dynamics has received plenty of attention for videos of eerily lifelike legged robots in action. The latest clip shows the company’s two-legged machine, Atlas, running and jumping with impressive speed. This is incredibly difficult for a two-legged machine to do on uneven ground. It requires a very sensitive sense of balance and lightning reflexes.

One step closer: The feat is progress toward enabling robots to go anywhere a person can. Boston Dynamics was founded by Marc Raibert, a roboticist who has done pioneering work on having robots balance themselves dynamically. Raibert previously ran a lab at CMU, and then one at MIT.

Chill: People often get a bit creeped out by the Boston Dynamics robots, but there are several reasons why you shouldn’t be the least bit worried about Atlas. For one thing, it’s operated by a person wielding a large remote control. For another, the robot is incredibly expensive and power hungry. And finally, it is still quite prone to falling over.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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