Boston Dynamics just released the latest demo of its humanoid robot, Atlas. The robot could already run and jump over complex terrain thanks to its feet. Now, the robot has hands, per se. These rudimentary grippers give the robot new life. Suddenly, instead of being an agile pack mule, the Atlas becomes something closer to a human, with the ability to pick up and drop off anything it can grab independently.
The claw-like gripper consists of one fixed finger and one moving finger. Boston Dynamics says the grippers were designed for heavy lifting tasks and were first demonstrated in a Super Bowl commercial where Atlas held a keg over its head.
The videos released today show the grippers picking up construction lumber and a nylon tool bag. Next, the Atlas picks up a 2x8 and places it between two boxes to form a bridge. The Atlas then picks up a bag of tools and dashes over the bridge and through construction scaffolding. But the tool bag needs to go to the second level of the structure -- something Atlas apparently realized and quickly throws the bag a considerable distance. Boston Dynamics describes this final maneuver: "Atlas' concluding move, an inverted 540-degree, multi-axis flip, adds asymmetry to the robot's movement, making it a much more difficult skill than previously performed parkour."
Boston Dynamic's Atlas is a research platform, and not available for purchase. It's long been the star of many viral videos, and has effectively demonstrated Boston Dynamic's robotic capabilities. In the small world of humanoid robotics, few competitors have shown similar capabilities of the Atlas. Only NASA's Robonaut offers similar hand-like grippers.