Calvin Hennick

Calvin Hennick has written about business, technology, travel, and other topics for dozens of publications, including The Boston Globe, Runner’s World, and Esquire. His debut memoir, Once More to the Rodeo, was named one of the Best 100 Books of 2019 by Amazon.

Build It. Break It. Fix It.

Atlas jogs up to the embanked yellow plywood panels, bouncing with ease from one to the next until the humanoid robot has made its way up to a box that sits at about waist level. Sensing the gap in front of it, Atlas pauses, plants its feet, and broad jumps across to a table on the other side. 

It sticks the landing. By all appearances, Atlas is cruising. But then, as the robot descends the three stairs back to the floor, a geyser of pink hydraulic fluid erupts from its left knee. The robot gets a few more staggered steps in as the oil gushes into the air, and then collapses in a heap. 

Atlas | Leaps, Bounds, and Backflips

For the first time today, both Atlas robots have completed the complex obstacle course flawlessly. Or, almost flawlessly.

The first of the two robots ran up a series of banked plywood panels, broad jumped a gap, and ran up and down stairs in the course set up on the second floor of the Boston Dynamics headquarters. The second robot leapt onto a balance beam and followed the same steps in reverse, and then the first robot vaulted over the beam. Both landed two perfectly synchronized backflips, and the video team has captured every move. 

All Together Now

At first, it’s not quite clear what you’re looking at. The yellow robots, sitting in silence, are lined up so closely that they almost resemble deck chairs stacked on top of one another. Then, in time with the music, their arms shoot out into a fluid series of patterns, giving the appearance of a single, many-armed robot peacocking for the camera. Finally, the seven Spots separate, synchronizing their steps and appearing to play off of one another’s dance moves.