Watch as robots complete complex parkour course, performing vaults and backflips

Robots that can parkour Credit: Boston Dynamics

A team of engineers have created robots that can run, jump and even perform parkour vaults and backflips.

Robotics company Boston Dynamics released a video of two of its Atlas robots completing a complex obstacle course.

They were seen running up wooden boxes, jumping gaps, running up and down stairs, leaping onto a beam and vaulting over it, and landing two perfectly synchronised backflips before pumping their fists in the air.

While it is all very impressive, one might ask: what use is a parkour-performing robot?

While a robot performing parkour might not be that useful in itself, engineers explained in their blog it gives them a perfect sandbox environment to experiment and build a robot that can perform the same range of movements and physical tasks as humans.

Lead engineer Scott Kuindersma suggested the Atlas robots could be the foundation for a "go-anywhere, do-anything robot of the future" that could perform a variety of physical tasks.

Getting robots to act like humans is more complex than it looks.

The movements are whole-body activities that require the robots to switch and maintain its balance and position depending on the situations they are in.

And there is the added difficulty that robotic bodies are still very different to human bodies, even if they resemble them.

Mr Kuindersma explained the challenges of training the robots to perform a vault: “If you or I were to vault over a barrier, we would take advantage of certain properties of our bodies that would not translate to the robot.

"For example, the robot has no spine or shoulder blades, so it doesn’t have the same range of motion that you or I do.

"The robot also has a heavy torso and comparatively weak arm joints.

"Extending our tools to help us find solutions that worked within these constraints was what made the vault an interesting challenge.”