Boston Dynamics Retires Its Legendary Humanoid Robot (2024)

In a new video posted today, Boston Dynamics is sending off its hydraulic Atlas humanoid robot. “For almost a decade,” the video description reads, “Atlas has sparked our imagination, inspired the next generations of roboticists, and leapt over technical barriers in the field. Now it’s time for our hydraulic Atlas robot to kick back and relax.”

Hydraulic Atlas has certainly earned some relaxation; Boston Dynamics has been absolutely merciless with its humanoid research program. This isn’t a criticism—sometimes being merciless to your hardware is necessary to push the envelope of what’s possible. And as spectators, we just just get to enjoy it, and this highlight reel includes unseen footage of Atlas doing things well along with unseen footage of Atlas doing things not so well. Which, let’s be honest, is what we’re all really here for.

There’s so much more to the history of Atlas than this video shows. Atlas traces its history back to a US Army project called PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin), which we first wrote about in 2009, so long ago that we had to dig up our own article on the Wayback Machine. As contributor Mikell Taylor wrote back then:

PETMAN is designed to test the suits used by soldiers to protect themselves against chemical warfare agents. It has to be capable of moving just like a soldier—walking, running, bending, reaching, army crawling—to test the suit’s durability in a full range of motion. To really simulate humans as accurately as possible, PETMAN will even be able to “sweat”.

Relative to the other humanoid robots out there at the time (the most famous of which, by far, was Honda’s ASIMO), PETMAN’s movement and balance were very, very impressive. Also impressive was the presumably unintentional way in which this PETMAN video synced up with the music video to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. Anyway, DARPA was suitably impressed by all this impressiveness, and chose Boston Dynamics to build the humanoid robot to be used for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. That robot was unveiled ten years ago.

The DRC featured a [still looking for a collective noun for humanoid robots] of Atlases, and it seemed like Boston Dynamics was hooked on the form factor, because less than a year after the DRC Finals the company announced the next generation of Atlas, which could do some useful things like move boxes around. Every six months or so, Boston Dynamics put out a new Atlas video, with the robot running or jumping or dancing or doing parkour, leveraging its powerful hydraulics to impress us every single time. There was really nothing like hydraulic Atlas in terms of dynamic performance, and you could argue that there still isn’t. This is a robot that will be missed.

Boston Dynamics Retires Its Legendary Humanoid Robot (1)The original rendering of Atlas, followed by four generations of the robot.Boston Dynamics/IEEE Spectrum

Now, if you’re wondering why Boston Dynamics is saying “it’s time for our hydraulic Atlas robot to kick back and relax,” rather than just “our Atlas robot,” and if you’re also wondering why the video description ends with “take a look back at everything we’ve accomplished with the Atlas platform “to date,” well, I can’t help you. Some people might attempt to draw some inferences and conclusions from that very specific and deliberate language, but I would certainly not be one of them, because I’m well known for never speculating about anything.

I would, however, point out a few things that have been obvious for a while now. Namely, that:

  • Boston Dynamics has been focusing fairly explicitly on commercialization over the past several years
  • Complex hydraulic robots are not product friendly because (among other things) they tend to leave puddles of hydraulic fluid on the carpet
  • Boston Dynamics has been very successful with Spot as a productized electric platform based on earlier hydraulic research platforms
  • Fully electric commercial humanoids really seems to be where robotics is at right now

There’s nothing at all new in any of this; the only additional piece of information we have is that the hydraulic Atlas is, as of today, retiring. And I’m just going to leave things there.

From Your Site Articles

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  • How Boston Dynamics Is Redefining Robot Agility ›
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  • Boston Dynamics’ Robert Playter on the New Atlas - IEEE Spectrum ›

Related Articles Around the Web

Boston Dynamics Retires Its Legendary Humanoid Robot (2024)


Boston Dynamics Retires Its Legendary Humanoid Robot? ›

Waltham-based Boston Dynamics retired its legendary humanoid robot Atlas and unveiled a new version. "For almost a decade, Atlas has sparked our imagination, inspired the next generations of roboticists and leapt over technical barriers in the field.

Is Atlas retired? ›

Atlas HD, a humanoid robot which can run, somersault and do backflips, has been retired after 11 years. "Now it's time for our hydraulic Atlas robot to kick back and relax," its maker Boston Dynamics said in a video which showed the robot's highlights and lowlights.

What is the most famous robot in Boston Dynamics? ›

Atlas. The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot "Atlas" is a 5-foot (152.4 cm) bipedal humanoid robot, based on Boston Dynamics' earlier PETMAN humanoid robot, and designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks.

What happened to Boston Dynamics? ›

Boston Dynamics has been focused on commercializing technologies for a number of years now. Hyundai's 2021 acquisition of the firm, coupled with the appointment of Robert Playter as its second-ever CEO, has further accelerated that path.

What is replacing Atlas Boston Dynamics? ›

Robotics firm Boston Dynamics has unveiled its latest humanoid bot just a day after pulling the plug on its industry-leading Atlas machine. The new all-electric Atlas replaces the hydraulic version, which gained headlines in recent years for its parkour feats and ability to perform a back flip.

Is the new Atlas robot real? ›

Supported by decades of visionary robotics innovation and years of practical experience, Boston Dynamics is tackling the next commercial frontier. This week we announced the retirement of our hydraulic Atlas and unveiled what comes next—a fully electric Atlas robot designed for real-world applications.

Why was Atlas punished? ›

Why was Atlas forced to carry the world? Atlas was forced by Zeus to carry the heavens upon his shoulders. This served as punishment for leading the Titan rebellion against Zeus in the Titanomachy.

How many Atlas V are left? ›

It is used for DoD, NASA, and Commercial payloads. It is America's longest-serving active rocket. After 87 launches, in August 2021 ULA announced that Atlas V would be retired, and all 29 remaining launches had been sold. As of June 2024, 16 launches remain.

Can anyone buy a Boston Dynamics robot? ›

Our products are designed for commercial, industrial, enterprise, and university research uses. You can contact Spot Sales or Stretch Sales to speak to our expert team about your solution. However, our products are not intended for purchase by individuals for non-commercial use.

Why did Google sell Boston Dynamics? ›

Google doesn't want to be a defense contractor. It ended Boston Dynamics' prior relationship with the DOD. These robots seem to have desirable military capabilities. Google has a "don't be evil" motto, and it may have philosophical objections to going forward with being a defense contractor.

Who bought Boston Dynamics? ›

In June, Hyundai officially acquired Boston Dynamics, an acquisition which represents a significant leap forward towards our overall goal of 'Progress for Humanity.

Who is Boston Dynamics biggest competitor? ›

Boston Dynamics's alternatives and competitors. See how Boston Dynamics compares to similar products. Boston Dynamics's top competitors include Pickle Robot, Sanctuary AI, and MUJIN. Pickle Robot specializes in warehouse automation with a focus on robotic systems for unloading trucks and containers.

Why did Boston Dynamics retire Atlas? ›

Various media noted Boston Dynamics does not have a commercial outlet for Atlas in the way its other robotic products have, though some highlighted its hydraulic trailblazer was largely now outdated and hinted the company may have a fresh model in the works.

Why does Hyundai own Boston Dynamics? ›

Hyundai Motor Group's decision to acquire Boston Dynamics is based on its growth potential and wide range of capabilities. “Wide range of capabilities" we get, but that other phrase, “growth potential," has a heck of a lot wrapped up in it. At the moment, Boston Dynamics is nowhere near profitable, as far as we know.

Which company is retiring their humanoid robot Atlas? ›


How much does a Boston Dynamics Atlas robot cost? ›

Atlas is not available for purchase; however, Boston Dynamics' advanced robots are usually part of high-budget research projects, suggesting a price well into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How old is Boston Dynamics Atlas? ›

The Atlas disaster-response robot made its public debut on July 11, 2013.

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