Atlas Is Dead, Long Live Atlas: Boston Dynamics Drops Hydraulics as It Targets Commercialization

The old hydraulic Atlas design is being retired, with a new all-electric version of the humanoid robot in testing with Hyundai.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoRobotics

Robotics specialist Boston Dynamics has announced the retirement of its HD Atlas humanoid robot platform — to make way for an all-new Atlas that ditches hydraulics for a fully-electric approach to its movement, developed and tested in partnership with early adopter and investor Hyundai.

"The electric version of Atlas will be stronger, with a broader range of motion than any of our previous generations," Boston Dynamics claims of its latest robot design. "For example, our last generation hydraulic Atlas (HD Atlas) could already lift and maneuver a wide variety of heavy, irregular objects; we are continuing to build on those existing capabilities and are exploring several new gripper variations to meet a diverse set of expected manipulation needs in customer environments."

Boston Dynamics has announced an all-new Atlas humanoid robot, dropping the hydraulic drive system for a sleeker all-electric design. (📹: Boston Dynamics)

Like the earlier hydraulic Atlas models, the all-electric Atlas uses a bipedal humanoid design distinct from the company's famous quadrupedal Spot range. While also serving as a demonstration platform — and recently seen tossing tools around a building site — the Atlas family is positioned as a deployable platform for real-world robotics use-cases. To prove it, the new electric variant is being developed in partnership with Hyundai — which has invested in Boston Dynamics and will be serving as an early customer for the 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," the company claims. "Atlas will move in ways that exceed human capabilities. 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."

The old HD Atlas design has been given a nostalgic send-off. (📹: Boston Dynamics)

While Boston Dynamics describes its new Atlas as "the first look at a real product," the company admits that there's some way to go before the platform is fully commercialized like its Spot robots — projecting that its work with Hyundai will stretch over "the next few years."

More information on the new Atlas is available on the Boston Dynamics website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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