Atlas, the "agile, anthropomorphic robot" created by Google's Boston Dynamics, is a "high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain." Someone should have told Atlas that before creators let it take its recent foray into the forest, an expedition captured on video and shown at the Fab Lab 11 conference in Massachusetts in early August. That video is now making its public rounds, showing Atlas—still tethered to a power cord—stomping its way through tree branches and thick foliage and trying to find its legs in not exactly the most graceful of ways. The reason for the woodsy walkabout: "to test the robot’s balance and ability to respond to an unpredictable environment," reports the Washington Post.
Reaction to Atlas' stroll are equal parts funny, fascinated, and fearful. The Post describes Atlas as "staggering around like the less-coordinated cousin of a Transformers character," while Quartz likens it to "initially appearing to look like a drunk person stumbling home through the woods after an exceedingly heavy night"; a quick Google search for stories about Atlas calls up the word "terrifying" more than once. It was the first time that Boston Dynamics—also know for its Spot and Cheetah robots—shared video of one of its humanoid robots dashing around in the wild, and founder Marc Raibert admits there will be growing pains. "Out in the world is just a totally different challenge than in the lab," he explains in the video as Atlas stumbles through the woods. "I'm not saying it can do everything you can do, but you can imagine if we keep pushing we'll get there." (As the Post points out, let's hope Atlas doesn't meet the fate of hitchBOT.)