Boston Dynamics unveils an all-electric version of its Atlas robot

A brief video shows off the bipedal machine's dexterity and agility.

Boston Dynamics

When Boston Dynamics announced on Tuesday it was retiring the hydraulic version of Atlas, there were a few hints that the company wasn't done with humanoid robots entirely. Sure enough, one day later, Boston Dynamics has unveiled an all-electric model.

Atlas was originally envisioned as a search-and-rescue robot and Boston Dynamics claims the latest model is designed for real-world applications. It calls Atlas "the world’s most dynamic humanoid robot" and it certainly looks limber.

A video shows Atlas lying prostrate and flipping its feet over to push itself up into a standing position. The robot then turns its head 180 degrees, followed by its torso. The rotations of the legs and the rest of the body are a little unnerving, but it's an impressive display of balance and flexibility.

The electric Atlas appears sleeker than its predecessor, which looked slightly like a person wearing an exosuit. Rather than having a face with human features, Atlas' featureless head looks a bit like a ring light.

Boston Dynamics says parent company Hyundai's next generation of automotive manufacturing tech is the "perfect testing ground for new Atlas applications." It plans to show off what the robot can really do over the coming months and years, and to put Atlas through its paces with a small group of partners at first.

The company is looking into new gripper systems to make sure Atlas is suitable for a range of commercial needs while building on the previous parkour-capable model's ability to lift and move a variety of heavy and irregular objects. It claims that the new Atlas will be stronger than before and it's confident that it can commercialize a humanoid robot.

"Atlas may resemble a human form factor, but we are equipping the robot to move in the most efficient way possible to complete a task, rather than being constrained by a human range of motion. Atlas will move in ways that exceed human capabilities," Boston Dynamics wrote in a blog post. "Combining decades of practical experience with first principles thinking, we are confident in our ability to deliver a robot uniquely capable of tackling dull, dirty and dangerous tasks in real applications."

Boston Dynamics is hardly the only company working on a humanoid robot. Tesla, of course, has one in the pipeline, while Menteebot, which can be controlled using natural-language voice commands emerged just this morning.

However, Boston Dynamics has been working on robots with this form factor for well over a decade, far longer than most. As things stand, it may be best positioned to get a humanoid robot into workplaces and even homes. Before that though, you might expect to see some videos in which the electric Atlas shows off some slick dance moves.