Something that often bothers me about sci-fi is the loner inventor trope. A guy in a garage builds a robot, or AI, or frequently both that are somehow decades beyond the technology of his day, and all the wild implications of his vast technological leap are the fuel for the next two and a half hours of popcorn entertainment.
But the latest video from Boston Dynamics is the closest equivalent I’ve ever witnessed IRL. Sure, it’s the achievement of an entire company, and they’re doing it on YouTube for everyone to see, not in a basement. But a backflip?
It’s hard to even appreciate how hard this is for robots to do, because it’s hard to appreciate how difficult walking still is for humanoids. I wrote a whole piece about the problem of building walking robots back in 2011 — it wasn’t pretty back then, and it’s still a challenge for most full-sized humanoids.
A backflip though?
It’s a barely-believable jump forward for the state of the art. It’s astonishing. It’s a moon landing, basically, except instead of all of the people of Earth gathering around tube televisions to witness it, it just popped up on our social feeds yesterday afternoon without warning.
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