In a weird, AI sort of way, Boston Dynamics is starting to scare people. Here’s why: as cool as the now Google-owned company is for building robots that run and jump and resemble existing living creatures, their advancements are almost reaching a tipping point of being too realistic for comfort.
Consider Boston Dynamics’ latest debut, Spot. The 160-pound robot is the size of a large dog, and like previous four-legged robots, can walk, run, and climb with truly astounding precision and balance.
According to Dynamics:
Spot is a four-legged robot designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate and negotiate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs.
Very straightforward. Nothing scary here. Just science. OK.
Except then you watch the video. There’s Spot, casually making its way through an office, and it gets kicked from the side. Hmph, rude. Then outside during another test, Spot gets kicked again, this time harder, almost getting knocked over, and as if you’re watching a Disney movie or something, you feel kind of bad for him, er, it.
The video has an odd effect for two reasons: one, some viewers might find themselves, even if only for a spit second, sympathizing with the robot because it looks like a dog. Vice points out that this is hardly the first time Boston Dynamics performed stress tests by kicking down their robots. Yet this one resembles man’s best friend, and is named as such, “Spot.”
The second unsettling takeaway is how successfully Spot responds to the stress tests. Even after a nice hard kick, the robot skids but never falls, and is able to regain balance. That’s really impressive! And a little bit terrifying too.
If this were a Disney movie, Spot would develop artificial intelligence, learn to talk, fight back against his oppressive owners, run away, become friends with a cute little boy voiced by a Jonas brother, and save the world from evil aliens.
Thankfully, it’s not a movie. It’s just another robot Youtube video. For now.
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/2015/02/09/boston-dynamics-spot-dog-robot/
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