t first glance, a humanoid robot walking between two platforms across several cinder blocks may look like a simple feat.
How many times, after all, have you crossed a shallow creek by hopping from one stone to another or threaded a narrow path while hiking without toppling over?
Seems fairly simple, right?
But the ability to navigate such obstacles by the human body, with its complex joints and natural system for creating balance, is far more difficult to replicate in a machine, especially one that operates autonomously.
To showcase that difficulty, researchers from The Institute for Human & Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Florida, released a video this month showing their efforts to train a bulky, 165-pound humanoid robot to walk across narrow terrain using autonomous planning. In the three-minute video, the robot – a Boston Dynamics-built Atlas model that uses control, perception and planning algorithms created by IHMC Robotics – carefully moves across a series of narrow cinder blocks and a balance beam, revealing a degree of body control that many humans would struggle to maintain.