Boston Dynamics

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Boston Dynamics
Industry Robotics
Founded 1992; 26 years ago (1992)
Founder Marc Raibert

Waltham, Massachusetts, United States

Key people
Marc Raibert (Chief executive officer)
Owner SoftBank Group (2017-),
Google X (2013 - 2017)
Parent SoftBank

Boston Dynamics is an American engineering and robotics design company founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1] Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, Boston Dynamics is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group.[2]

Boston Dynamics is best known for the development of BigDog, a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),[3][4] and DI-Guy, software for realistic human simulation. Early in the company's history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations featuring DI-Guy characters.[5] The company is a pioneer in the field of robotics and it is one of the most advanced in its domain.[6][7][8][9] Marc Raibert is the company's president and project manager. He spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.[10]

On 13 December 2013, the company was acquired by Google X (later X, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) for an unknown price,[11] where it was managed by Andy Rubin until his departure from Google in 2014.[12] Immediately before the acquisition, Boston Dynamics transferred their DI-Guy software product line to VT MÄK, a simulation software vendor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[13] On 8 June 2017, Alphabet Inc. announced the sale of the company to Japan's SoftBank Group for an undisclosed sum.[14]



BigDog was a quadrupedal robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics, in conjunction with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station.[15] It was funded by the DARPA in the hopes that it would be able to serve as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too rough for vehicles, but the project was shelved after BigDog was deemed too loud to be used in combat.[16][17] Instead of wheels, BigDog used four legs for movement, allowing it to move across surfaces that would defeat wheels. Called "the world's most ambitious legged robot", it was designed to carry 340 pounds (150 kg) alongside a soldier at 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h; 1.8 m/s), traversing rough terrain at inclines up to 35 degrees.[18]

Legged Squad Support Systems (LS3) is similar to the BigDog.[19]


The Cheetah is a four-footed robot that gallops at 28 miles per hour (45 km/h; 13 m/s), which as of August 2012 is a land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 miles per hour (21.1 km/h; 5.9 m/s), set in 1989 at MIT. This robot has an articulated back that flexes back and forth on each step, thereby increasing its stride and running speed, much like the animal does. The original Cheetah robot runs on a high-speed treadmill in the laboratory where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. A free-running Cheetah that will operate more naturally in the field, named the WildCat, was unveiled to the public on October 3, 2013.[20]

A similar but independently developed robot also known as Cheetah is made by MIT's Biomimetic Robotics Lab,[21] which, by 2014, could jump over obstacles while running.[22][23]


LittleDog is a small quadruped robot developed for DARPA by Boston Dynamics for research. Unlike BigDog, which is run by Boston Dynamics, LittleDog is intended as a testbed for other institutions. Boston Dynamics maintains the robots for DARPA as a standard platform.[24][25]

LittleDog has four legs, each powered by three electric motors. The legs have a large range of motion. The robot is strong enough for climbing and dynamic locomotion gaits. The onboard PC-level computer does sensing, actuator control and communications. LittleDog's sensors measure joint angles, motor currents, body orientation and foot/ground contact. Control programs access the robot through the Boston Dynamics Robot API. Onboard lithium polymer batteries allow for 30 minutes of continuous operation without recharging. Wireless communications and data logging support remote operation and data analysis. LittleDog development is funded by the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office.[26]


RiSE is a robot that climbs vertical terrain such as walls, trees and fences, using feet with micro-claws to climb on textured surfaces. It changes posture to conform to the curvature of the climbing surface and its tail helps it balance on steep ascents. RiSE is 0.25 m long, weighs 2 kg, and travels 0.3 m/s.[27]

Each of RiSE's six legs is powered by a pair of electric motors. An onboard computer controls leg motion, manages communications, and services a variety of sensors, including joint position sensors, leg strain sensors and foot contact sensors.

Boston Dynamics developed RiSE in conjunction with researchers at University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Lewis and Clark College. It was funded by DARPA.


SandFlea is a small robot capable of jumping 30 feet (9.1 m) straight up. This wheeled robot weighs 11 pounds (5 kg), and drives like a remote-controlled car on flat surfaces.[28]

The robot uses gyro stabilization to stay level during flight, to provide a clear view from the onboard camera, and to ensure a smooth landing. Sand Flea can jump about 25 times on one charge. Boston Dynamics is developing Sand Flea with funding from the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF). Earlier versions of Sand Flea were developed by Sandia National Laboratory with funding from DARPA and JIEDDO. [29]


PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin)[30] is a bipedal device constructed for testing chemical protection suits. It is the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person. Much of its technology is derived from BigDog.[31]

Unlike previous suit testers that had a limited repertoire of motion and had to be supported mechanically, PETMAN balances itself and moves freely; walking, bending and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. PETMAN also simulates human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity, and sweating, all to provide realistic test conditions. The PETMAN system was delivered to the user’s test facility where it is going through validation experiments. Boston Dynamics' partners for the program are MRIGlobal, Measurement Technologies Northwest, Smith Carter CUH2A (SCC), SRD, and HHI Corporation.[32]


Legged Squad Support System (LS3), also known as AlphaDog, is a militarized version of BigDog. It is ruggedized for military use, with the ability to operate in hot, cold, wet, and dirty environments.

LS3 is a rough-terrain robot designed to go anywhere Marines and Soldiers go on foot, helping carry their load. Each LS3 carries up to 400 lbs (181 kg) of gear and enough fuel for a 20-mile (32 km) mission lasting 24 hours. LS3 automatically follows its leader using computer vision, so it does not need a dedicated driver. It also travels to designated locations using terrain sensing and GPS. LS3 began a 2-year field testing phase in 2012. LS3 is funded by DARPA and the US Marine Corps. To develop the LS3, Boston Dynamics has assembled a team including engineers and scientists from Boston Dynamics, Carnegie Mellon, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bell Helicopter, AAI Corporation and Woodward HRT.[33]


The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot "Atlas" is a 6-foot (183 cm) bipedal humanoid robot, based on Boston Dynamics' earlier PETMAN humanoid robot, and designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks.[34]

Atlas is a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces. Articulated, sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use. Atlas includes 28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet and a torso. An articulated sensor head includes stereo cameras and a laser range finder. The first versions of Atlas were powered from an off-board, electric power supply via a flexible tether. Several copies of the Atlas robot are being provided as Government Furnished Equipment for the DARPA Robotics Challenge program with delivery scheduled in the summer of 2013.[35][needs update]

In February 2016 Boston Dynamics published a YouTube video[36] entitled "Atlas, The Next Generation" showing a new humanoid robot about 5' 9" tall (175 cm, about a head shorter than the original DRC Atlas). In the video, the robot is shown performing a number of tasks that would have been difficult or impossible for the previous generation of humanoid robots,[37] including walking at a reasonable speed over uneven and treacherous snow-covered terrain, and getting up quickly when knocked over. From this version on, Atlas was using an integrated power source that did not need tethering anymore.

In November 2017, a Youtube video[38] showed a range of new abilities for Atlas, including jumping, 180 degree jumps, and backflips.


RHex is a six-legged robot with inherently high mobility. Powerful, independently controlled legs produce specialized gaits that devour rough terrain with minimal operator input. RHex climbs in rock fields, mud, sand, vegetation, railroad tracks, telephone poles and up slopes and stairways.

RHex has a sealed body, making it fully operational in wet weather, muddy and swampy conditions. RHex's remarkable terrain capabilities have been validated in government-run independent testing. RHex is controlled remotely from an operator control unit at distances up to 700 meters. Visible/IR cameras and illuminators provide front and rear views from the robot.[39]


In a 2018 viral promotional video, a rear part of SpotMini's casing falls off as it compensates to overcome interference

On June 23, 2016, Boston Dynamics revealed the four-legged canine-inspired SpotMini which only weighs 25 kg (55 pounds) and is lighter than their other products.[40] The robot runs off of electricity and can operate for about 90 minutes, all depending on the tasks it is set to complete.

In February 2018, a promotional video of the SpotMini using its forward claw to open a door for another robot reached #1 on YouTube, with over 2 million views. A later video the same month showed the SpotMini persisting in attempting to open the door in the face of human interference. Viewers perceived the robot as "creepy" and "reminiscent of all kinds of sci-fi robots that wouldn't give up in their missions to seek and destroy".[41][42][43]

On May 11, 2018 CEO of Boston Dynamics Marc Raibert on TechCrunch Robotics Session 2018 announced that SpotMini robot is in pre-production and preparing for commercial availability in 2019. [44] On its website, Boston Dynamics highlights that SpotMini is the “quietest robot [they] have built.” The company says it has plans with contract manufacturers to build the first 100 SpotMinis later this year[45] for commercial purposes, with them starting to scale production with the goal of selling SpotMini in 2019.


Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft (198 cm) tall, travels at 9 mph (14.5 km/h) and jumps 4 feet (122 cm) vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles (24 km) on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots Boston Dynamics builds, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex.[46] Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.[47]


  1. ^ "About | Boston Dynamics". 
  2. ^ "About - Boston Dynamics". 
  3. ^ David Hambling, Robotic 'pack mule' displays stunning reflexes, New Scientist, 3 March 2006.
  4. ^ Madrick, Jeff; Madrick, Jeff (24 April 2014). "Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All" – via The New York Review of Books. 
  5. ^ Sharon Foster, "Updating Technology Without Upping the Price: Boston Dynamics completes first phase of catapult trainer upgrade", (subscription required), National Defense, November 1, 2001.
  6. ^ "Here are all the crazy-advanced robots built by Google's Boston Dynamics group". 
  7. ^ 90210, HAL (15 August 2017). "Robot shelf-stack fail suggests they won't take our jobs just yet" – via 
  8. ^ Staff, RT. "Boston Dynamics - Robotics Trends". 
  9. ^ Liszewski, Andrew. "ATLAS: Probably the Most Advanced Humanoid Yet, Definitely Terrifying". 
  10. ^ About Boston Dynamics (2005), Retrieved on 4 July 2007.
  11. ^ "Google is trying to sell Boston Dynamics, the crazy robotics company it bought in 2013". 
  12. ^ "Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots", New York Times, December 14, 2013.
  13. ^ "DI-Guy Now Part of VT MÄK", Military Simulation and Training Magazine, December 11, 2013.
  14. ^ Lunden, Ingrid. "SoftBank is buying robotics firms Boston Dynamics and Schaft from Alphabet - TechCrunch". 
  15. ^ "Boston Dynamics". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  16. ^ Degeler, Andrii. "Marines' LS3 robotic mule is too loud for real-world combat". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Markoff, John (9 April 2012). "Pentagon Contest to Develop Robots to Work in Disaster Areas". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ "BigDog - The Most Advanced Rough-Terrain Robot on Earth". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  19. ^ "Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  20. ^ "Creepy Cat Robot Can Run 16mph". Breitbart. Retrieved October 6, 2013. 
  21. ^ "MIT Cheetah Robot Runs Fast, and Efficiently". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. 
  22. ^ Biomimetics MIT (14 September 2014). "MIT Cheetah robot 2 running fast and jump over an obstacle" – via YouTube. 
  23. ^ "MIT reveals how its military-funded Cheetah robot can now jump over obstacles on its own". 
  24. ^ Greenemeier, Larry "DARPA Pushes Machine Learning with Legged LittleDog Robot", Scientific American, April 15, 2008
  25. ^ "LittleDog: The Legged Learning Robot". Accessed on October 20, 2008.
  26. ^ "LittleDog-The Legged Locomotion Learning Robot". Boston Dynamics. 
  27. ^ "RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot". Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  28. ^ "SandFlea - Leaps Small Buildings in a Single Bound". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  29. ^ "SandFlea - Leaps Small Buildings in a Single Bound". Boston Dynamics. 
  30. ^ "PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) Humanoid Military Robot". Army Technology. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2013-12-17. [unreliable source?]
  31. ^ Video of petman on the Boston Dynamics on YouTube
  32. ^ "PETMAN". 
  33. ^ "LS3-Legged Squad Support Systems". Boston Dynamics. 
  34. ^ "Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  35. ^ "Atlas-The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot". Boston Dynamics. 
  36. ^ BostonDynamics (2016-02-23), Atlas, The Next Generation, retrieved 2016-06-03 
  37. ^ "Google human-like robot brushes off beating by puny human – this is how Skynet starts". The Register. 24 Feb 2016. Retrieved 3 Jun 2016. 
  38. ^ BostonDynamics (2017-11-16), What's new, Atlas?, retrieved 2017-11-19 
  39. ^ "RHex-Devours Rough Terrain". 
  40. ^ "Boston Dynamic's released Spot Mini". 
  41. ^ Ferris, Robert (13 February 2018). "Boston Dynamics' robot dog that opens doors is freaking out the internet". CNBC. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
  42. ^ "Boston Dynamics robot fights back against an armed man to open a door and enter a room". The Independent. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
  43. ^ "Why are robot-makers trying to outdo each other with terrifying robots?". Salon. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
  44. ^
  45. ^ "Boston Dynamics to start selling SpotMini robot as soon as 2019", Dezeen, 17 May 2018 
  46. ^ Totolos, Bruce (28 February 2017). "Boston Dynamics Reveals Handle - An Amazing Robot". French Tribune. 
  47. ^ "Introducing Handle". 

External links

  • Official website
  • Boston Dynamics' channel on YouTube
  • NHK Documentary - Robot Revolution on YouTube NHK
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