Atlas prepares to jump over a log while out for a demonstration jog. (Boston Dynamics)

Atlas prepares to jump over a log while out for a demonstration jog. (Boston Dynamics)

Tech company’s jogging humanoid robot scares the internet

For some, the headless robot is an apocalyptic sign that humanity is hastening its own demise.

By Peter Holley / The Washington Post

Few things succeed in riling up the internet faster, unleashing a unique cocktail of amazement and terror, than a new Boston Dynamics robot video.

In the past, the tech company, owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group, has released videos showing its robots climbing stairs, executing perfect back flips and opening doors with shocking facility.

The company’s latest YouTube submission: a 34-second clip of its boxy humanoid robot, Atlas, going for a jog in a grassy residential area on what appears to be a bright spring day.

With its electronic appendages unleashing an animatronic whine that falls somewhere between an electronic knife and a Xerox machine, Atlas even stops to hop over a log before casually going on his bipedal way.

In only a day, the video has racked up more than 900,000 page views, a testament to the powerful impression that Boston Dynamics’s videos continually leave on viewers. For some, Atlas is an exciting childlike underdog signaling that a “Jetsons”-like future is nearly upon us.

“Great job, Atlas!” one viewer commented. “So proud of you! Keep learning, my friend! :)”

For many others, the headless robot is an apocalyptic sign that humanity is hastening its own demise.

“So imagine you wake up one morning and walk out the front door on your little ranch and then you see this thing in the distance charging at you with an axe,” one viewer commented. “What do you do?”

In the past even Tesla co-founder Elon Musk, who regularly warns about the rise of artificial intelligence, has used Atlas’ athletic prowess to paint a dire picture of humanity’s future.

Though Boston Dynamics did not immediately respond to a request for comment, its website says Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots it is developing.

“Atlas’ control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace,” the company says. “Atlas’ ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint.”

“Stereo vision, range sensing and other sensors give Atlas the ability to manipulate objects in its environment and to travel on rough terrain. Atlas keeps its balance when jostled or pushed and can get up if it tips over.”

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