- Boston Dynamics
- Boston Dynamics has sent the internet into meltdown by creating robot dogs that can open doors and a back-flipping humanoid.
- The machines have provoked quips about it being the end of human civilisation, but CEO Marc Raibert has sought to reassure people, according to Associated Press.
- Boston Dynamics did not, however, rule out the possibility of weaponizing its robots.
Robotics firm Boston Dynamics has sent the internet into meltdown with robot dogs that can open doors and a back-flipping humanoid. The advances provoked quips about it being the end of human civilisation and even inspired a dystopian episode of Netflix show “Black Mirror” with killer robo-dogs.
But CEO Marc Raibert has played down fears about his machines, according to an Associated Press report. At a robotics conference in late May, Raibert told the AP that technological advances come with risk – but that’s because of humans, not machines.
“We think about that, but that’s also true for cars, airplanes, computers, lasers,” said Raibert. “Every technology you can imagine has multiple ways of using it. If there’s a scary part, it’s just that people are scary. I don’t think the robots by themselves are scary.”
His comments come as “SpotMini,” a dog-like Boston Dynamics robot, is slated for commercial release next year, with plans to manufacture 1,000 annually.
It weighs as much as a Labrador and is able to navigate autonomously, climb stairs, and open doors. The machine will apparently be sold to businesses as a camera-equipped security guard. The price is yet to be announced.
Videos of “SpotMini” have also shown the robot being poked with hockey sticks and tugged around by engineers to test its “robustness.” While it can take a kicking, there’s no evidence yet to suggest it could fight back.
Boston Dynamics’ broader plans remain murky, according to the AP, and it has not ruled out military applications for its technology.
Founded in 1992, previously Boston Dynamics’ focus was more on research than commercial demands. It initially received military funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A federal contracting database lists more than $150 million (£186 million) in funding allotted to Boston Dynamics since 1994, the AP said.
- YouTube/Boston Dynamics
In 2013 Google acquired Boston Dynamics and was keen to shift emphasis away from military applications. But in 2016, Google sold the company to Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
SoftBank said nothing about its plans for Boston Dynamics when contacted by AP, but its approach has been interpreted as more commercially minded by people familiar with the company. While Raibert has played down fears about his creations, weaponizing them for revenue is not completely off the table.