Watch this 300-pound robot balance like Karate Kid

Atlas, that hunky humanoid built by Boston Dynamics, has pulled off yet another acrobatic feat. Climbing on a cinderblock stack, Atlas can balance on one foot and raise both arms in the air — pretty impressive, whether you’re a man or a 300-pound machine. 

Atlas’s body is bona fide Boston-made, designed at Boston Dynamics’s Waltham office (now headed by Google) but its brains come installed out of state.

At the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, a team is building software that direct the abilities of the humanoid. So if Atlas is adding martial arts moves made famous by that cult classic Karate Kid to its repertoire, this is the team to thank.

IHMC’s Atlas robot and the team that trained it are the finalists in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a robotics competition started by the Department of Defense to jump start research and development of rescue robots for use in emergencies.

After trials in December in which the robots climbed ladders, moved hoses, drilled holes through walls—as they might in a real-life disaster—IHMC and 10 other teams including groups from MIT and Worcester Polytechnic Institute qualified for a more challenging finish in June 2015.

DARPA hasn’t announced those tasks yet. If balancing acts, body contortions, or yoga are part of the scorecard, we have a good guess who’s off to a running start.


Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at
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