Boston Dynamics Made Their Robot Dog 'SpotMini' Even Creepier

Monday, 12 February 2018 - 6:26PM
Technology
Robotics
Monday, 12 February 2018 - 6:26PM
Boston Dynamics Made Their Robot Dog 'SpotMini' Even Creepier
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YouTube/Boston Dynamics

By this point it's clear that the engineers at Boston Dynamics are secretly supervillains. There's no other explanation for the company's monstrous robots from the Uncanny Valley.

The team has now had a good look at the designs of their headless robot dogs, and perhaps decided they were horrendously creepy. And they agree that, yes, their robot dog would be improved if it had a head. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned eagerness to perform mad science, they've gone with a terrifying snake head.

In a video that looks like an audition tape for a Jurassic Park movie, the newest iteration of the SpotMini robot demonstrates its ability to use a door handle. "Clever girl," as they said about the velociraptors who knew a similar trick. See it below:



The robot achieves this thanks to a pincer grip on the end of a long arm that coils up on top of the SpotMini's torso when not in use. It could be very handy for the future of robotics, as these mechanical helpers will be able to do more than backflip or press elevator buttons from this point on.

The only downside is that the robots look so utterly terrifying that it's hard to imagine human beings ever feeling comfortable spending any time in their general vicinity. It's creepy enough that an entire episode of Black Mirror was inspired by Boston Dynamics' robot dogs, and that episode, "Metalhead", made them explicitly murderous.



It's going to be a lot harder to convince people to work alongside terrifying robots that look like a cross between a hellhound and Doctor Octopus. While the issues here are purely cosmetic, they aren't exactly helping robot-human relations. Considering that many meatbags are already wary of machines taking their jobs, it's not helping matters when these robots look like horror movie monsters.

This isn't an issue that's unique to Boston Dynamics. Hanson Robotics' Sophia, an official citizen of Saudi Arabia, is equally disturbing to look at.

Either engineers are all universally so swept up in the excitement of making robots that they can't spot how terrifying their creations look, or they're doing this deliberately. There's something to be said from the kind of publicity that Boston Dynamics' new Jurassic Park video generates, but it's hard not to imagine that this is hurting the company's cause in the long run.

But, then, perhaps we have to get used to the idea of robots actually being competent. We're all so used to hearing stories of adorable robots bumbling, falling over, or getting flustered and confused, that it's scary to think that some of these machines might actually be more efficient and accurate than humans.

Maybe Boston Dynamics deserves the benefit of the doubt for now - their creation is impressive, as it shows just how dexterous robots are becoming. Perhaps the company can be convinced to stick some googly eyes onto the SpotMini to make it look less intimidating.

That said, if the company's next video involves giving this this teeth, it'll be time to start worrying.

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