About three months ago, we showed readers the SkyNet-like robots produced by Boston Dynamics, a DARPA funded company acquired by Google in 2013 (which is in the process of being sold to Japan’s Softbank), with a focus on a humanoid bipedal robot on social media performing frightfully humanoid jumps and backflips.
Since then, Boston Dynamics’ quadrupedal robotic dog called Spot Mini has picked up a new trick that could open the doors to some truly terrifying things. If you have watched the dystopian sci-fi series Black Mirror episode “Metalhead,” where a knife-wielding quadrupedal robotic dog runs around killing people, then Boston Dynamics’ newly redesigned Spot mini should be frightening for humanity:
The video shows the latest demonstration of its Spot Mini robot, hopelessly standing in front of a door, presumably in Boston Dynamics’ laboratories. About 12 seconds into the demonstration, another spot mini is seen coming around the corner with a robotic claw attached to its head. Spot Mini then moves back, giving the creepy robotic dog dubbed Big Dog, enough room to open the door, as Spot Mini proceeds into the next room.
TechCrunch called the video “impressive” and hints that Boston Dynamics has possibly made important advancements in advancing autonomous control systems, but questioned the authenticity of the video.
“The team behind the Big Dog proves that it’s still the master of viral robotic marketing, even after switching teams from Google to SoftBank. Three months after debuting a more streamlined version of its electronic Spot Mini, the company’s got another teaser, wherein one robot equipped with a head-mounted arm makes (relatively) quick work of a door, letting his pal waltz through.”
“The video’s impressive for both the agility of the arm itself, as well as the robot’s ability to maintain balance as it swings open what looks to be a fairly heavy door.”
“Like the last video, the teaser doesn’t offer a ton of insight into what’s new with the bumble bee-colored version of the company’s already announced robot. Last time out it appeared as though we got a preview of a pair of Kinect-style 3D cameras that could give a little more insight into the robot’s navigation system.”
“That tech seemed to hint at the possibility of an advanced autonomous control system. Given the brevity of the video, however, it’s tough to say whether someone’s controlling the ‘bots just out of frame. If the company managed to program Spot Mini to actually open the door on its own in order to help free its friend, well, perhaps it’s time to be concerned.”
The video promptly inspired a cascade of dystopian commentary about humanity’s impending demise:
Thanks, Boston Dynamics! We are doomed. http://flip.it/MDzIMP (Our robot overlords Can now hunt us in packs. )
Thanks, Boston Dynamics! We are doomed. https://t.co/YOmzu8IXWA (Our robot overlords Can now hunt us in packs. )— Michael A Stackpole (@MikeStackpole) February 13, 2018
“Boston Dynamics is going to be the end of us all, and the last remaining humans will be wondering how we didn’t see it coming,” a Twitter user said.
Boston Dynamics is going to be the end of us all, and the last remaining humans will be wondering how we didn't see it coming. https://t.co/hYHNqTC6BZ— nick wright (@getnickwright) February 12, 2018
“Honestly for like 8 years I’ve been watching videos of Boston Dynamics perfecting dog shaped future killing machines and its always framed like im supposed to applaud that it learned to hunt me a little better this month,” a long time observer of Boston Dynamics said.
honestly for like 8 years ive been watching videos of boston dynamics perfecting dog shaped future killing machines and its always framed like im supposed to applaud that it learned to hunt me a little better this month.— el-p (@therealelp) February 12, 2018
One Twitter user made a good point, “What if Boston Dynamics’ and Magic Leap’s business model is just to make viral videos.”
what if Boston Dynamics' and Magic Leap's business model is just to make viral videos— Christopher Mims 🎆 (@mims) February 12, 2018
Although Boston Dynamics’ bi-and quadrupedal robots appear to be years from the battlefield - or hunting humans in a post-apocalyptic environment - the Pentagon’s first step in making this dystopian dream become a reality is weaponizing autonomous systems on preexisting military vehicles. Recently, the Pentagon announced that it will be testing fully-autonomous "killer Humvees" this spring... which probably means that autonomous robo-killer units and dgs - first used for war, then for anything else - can't be far behind.