One week ago, the world watched mesmerized as Boston Dynamics' robotic dog, Spot Mini, showed off its brand new skill: entering a room after opening a door on its own by using a claw attached to its head. The video prompted an avalanche of dystopian humor.
Now, for its latest trick, the Boston Dynamics’ door-opening robot dog can also fight off humans to fulfill its simple door opening prerogative.
On Tuesday, the company published a new video that shows SpotMini successfully opening a door and walking through it, despite the best efforts of a man armed with a hockey stick trying to impede the robot.
In the clip, a human "armed" with a hockey stick does everything in his power to stop the robot from opening the door, including tugging on the machine, which struggles in what Wired called "an unsettling manner." But the ambush doesn’t work. The dogbot wins and gets through the door anyway.
As Wired notes, however, the most subtle detail here is also the most impressive: The robot is doing almost all of this autonomously. Since Boston Dynamics is a notoriously tight-lipped company, the few sentences it provided with this clip is a relative gold mine. It describes how a human handler drove the bot up to the door, then commanded it to proceed. The rest you can see for yourself. As SpotMini grips the handle and the human tries to shut the door, it braces itself and tugs harder—all on its own. As the human grabs a tether on its back and pulls it back violently, the robot stammers and wobbles and breaks free—still, of its own algorithmic volition.
The bottom line is that this simple robot can correct for extreme forces, effectively nullifying an aggressive human presence, all the while handling a relatively precise task. This is precisely the desired outcome: after all Boston Dynamics is, as it says in the title of the video, “testing robustness" and "SpotMini's ability to adjust to disturbances."
Like last week's clip that shows SpotMini engaging in the now far simpler task of merely opening a door and holding it open to allow a robot with no arms through, it has provoked plenty of discussion from viewers online.
Why are these Boston Robotics dudes apparently the only people who’ve never seen T2 or Jurassic Park? pic.twitter.com/Cd7r4CSGyX— Julius Goat 🦆 (@JuliusGoat) February 13, 2018
How many people at Boston Dynamics have refused the job of pushing the robots around with hockey sticks on the grounds that "I've seen movies"?— Kyle Carpenter (@ParttimeKyle) February 20, 2018
At this point I think Boston Dynamics just enjoys trolling people's fear of advanced robotics.— Daniel Baxter (@SimpleCap) February 21, 2018
Underated opinion:— M I L O (@nmm_ilo) February 21, 2018
BostonDynamics' robot dogs are adorable as hell
SpotMini, the quietest robot Boston Dynamics has built, comes equipped with stereo cameras, depth cameras and force sensors in its limbs, and can carry up to 14kg of weight, according to the Independent.
“A camera in the hand finds the door handle, cameras on the body determine if the door is open or closed and navigate through the doorway,” says Boston Dynamics, which also offers its assurances that the test did not “irritate or harm” SpotMini.
“Software provides locomotion, balance and adjusts behavior when progress gets off track. The ability to tolerate and respond automatically to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot.”