A video of Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot Atlas being pushed with hockey sticks to test its ability to balance fascinated web users, with over 34 million of us watching the clip.
The increasingly agile android managed to stay on its feet – and now Boston Dynamics boss Marc Raibert has revealed why.
At a web summit in Lisbon this week, he confessed: “I have video of pushing on my daughter when she was one year old, knocking her over, getting some grief.”
He had deliberately shoved the toddler to try to understand how humans instinctively regain their balance when they have been bumped, reports the BBC: “She was teetering and tottering and learning to balance and I just wanted to see what would happen.”
He joked: “But we’re still good pals.”
And he clearly learned what he needed to know.
Recent video of Atlas shows the robot running through a floor gymnastics routine, including a handstand, some impressive rolls, and a 360-degree mid-air twist.
“We created manoeuvres using new techniques that streamline the development process,” a statement from Boston Dynamics explains.
“First, an optimisation algorithm transforms high-level descriptions of each manoeuvre into dynamically-feasible reference motions
“Then Atlas tracks the motions using a model predictive controller that smoothly blends from one manoeuvre to the next.
“Using this approach, we developed the routine significantly faster than previous Atlas routines, with a performance success rate of about 80%.”
Viewers were simultaneously impressed and terrified by the athletic android’s fluidity of motion.
One person wryly commented: “So they won’t just be able to destroy us, but now they will also be fabulous while doing it.”
Mr Raibert, too, has suggested he found his robots scary. He once described them as “nightmare-inducing”, although he now maintains that was just a joke.
“I was teasing myself and the media when I said it,” he told BBC News.
“It was supposed to be a closed meeting with no media and I was joking among a crowd of friends. I was teasing us and them.”
He added: “Every technology you can imagine has multiple ways of using it. If there’s a scary part, it’s just that people are scary. I don’t think the robots by themselves are scary.”
Boston Dynamics have started offering their super-creepy robots for sale, but as yet you will need to offer a good reason what you want one as they’re not available for everyone.