Watch Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot leap up massive steps like it’s nothing

Two years ago, Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot Atlas needed a big ol’ safety tether to shuffle its way down a flat hiking trail. Five years ago it needed a big, bolted-down support structure to keep itself upright.

Now it’s casually leaping up and over obstacles that would leave many humans huffing and puffing.

The company demonstrated Atlas’ newly found hops in a video published this morning:

It starts with a lil’ leap over a log before Atlas bounds its way right up a set of 40 cm (1.3 ft) steps.

While just getting a massive, heavy robot to walk on two feet is a feat few companies have cracked, there’s a whole set of new challenges at play here. Getting Atlas’ limbs up and over the step, while appropriately shifting the weight and momentum onto one foot without the whole thing face-planting… it’s a complicated set of mechanics. Notice the sideways leaps, and — particularly in the slow motion cut at the 9-second mark — the way the hips/feet seem to angle a bit to compensate.

(For the curious: Atlas weighs around 180 lbs, as of the last time Boston Dynamics disclosed the numbers.)

At this point, we’ve gone from “Haha, neat, look at the funny robot running like a human,” to “I’m pretty sure that robot could beat me up.”

Wondering what the company is up to here? We talked with Boston Dynamics’ founder Marc Raibert about the hows and whys a few months back at our robotics event in Berkeley. The video is below: