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Boston Dynamics has a new creepy dog-like robot called SpotMini (qz.com)
58 points by elsewhen 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments



Why is this considered "creepy"? For all I care this is super awesome. Of course there are military applications but there are also a lot of non-military applications (i.e. pallative care for elderly!)


Because people know that ultimately this will be used for military/policing applications and aren't excited for an inhuman future where AI and robots dispense "justice" and keep "peace"


Seriously? Isn’t that a very dystopian view of the future?


Yes, but makes sense - Boston Dynamics have funding from the US military and military tech seems to end up in the hands of police forces.


Dystopian? Yes. Unlikely? No.

Right now you have US military personnel sitting at a desk in Ohio launching missiles from a drone in Afghanistan to kill bad guys. Why wouldn't they also use killer robots when they become available?


Why not? There are two options here - either AI will be better at those things than humans, or worse. Why does everyone assume only one of those options is possible?


Robots would arguably be better an enforcing law and order.

The troubles people fear come from where the people creating and implementing law become increasingly disconnected from the enforcement, and removing people from enforcement removes a feedback from 'the ground'. A person can refuse to enforce what it perceives to be an unjust law. A union can band together and refuse to do certain things.

That can happen with robots as well, but the requirements for cooperation are lower. Fewer bad actors are required to achieve a super-bad goal. Imagine the entire police force controlled by one person. The entire army. Would that be good?

If you answer is no, or "maybe, it depends" then you also appreciate the unease that people feel about increased concentration of power that could come from automation.


Most people haven’t seen many robots with life-like movement before, except for maybe a few gifs of past boston dynamics projects on facebook. Seeing a machine move fluidly is always going to feel a little weird at first and its not a stretch to associate those products with the last dystopian sci fi movie you’ve seen.


I'm ambialent about the creepiness of this. I think it looks a bit like something out of a T'au Empire army [1]. I'd be interested to see what happens when a man in power armour hits it with a power fist.

_______________

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tau_(Warhammer_40%2C000)]


I was wondering the same thing? These are just remote controlled machines. I mean, your average robot vacuum cleaner is more autonomous it seems to me. Is it the fact that it moves on legs instead of wheels?


Ugh. This article is just click-bait copy with with a link to a Youtube video and no original reporting. Just link the video directly rather than sending traffic to junk like this.


https://youtu.be/kgaO45SyaO4 for those interested


Google made a mistake. Those droids are amazing.


Yeah, you want to be in control of the company making the horrifying robots.

If you aren't controlling them, somebody else is.


Those droids in the hands of Google are literally terminators. Or at least maybe that was the perception they were aiming to avoid when they disposed of the company.


If my interpretation of the sound is correct, this is running on battery, not on an internal combustion engine.

I may be mistaken but that's the first time I hear about Boston Dynamics switching to battery operated robots.

That's a big step I think!


Earlier models were supposed to be robotic mules for military use.

This one seems to be aimed at domestic "helper dog" tasks.

Thus much like a roomba they will have a charging station sitting in a corner somewhere.


direct link to video https://youtu.be/kgaO45SyaO4


> The sale came about in part because of the reputation Boston Dynamics had developed for making robots that were too creepy for the general public.

Is this really true? Because this sounds like a stupid reason, even in part, to make a sale.


I thought it was less about "creepy" and more about the military aspect. It's hard to "don't be evil" when you have a subsidiary building what people were describing (hyperbolically) as some kind of precursor to the Terminator. If they put some big anime eyes and a cute tail on the new one, rather than an empty face place, it'd probably go down just fine.

Edit: Boston Dynamics also didn't help themselves with the "dog kicking" video. It (sort of) looks like a dog, and people were kicking it (well, not really, they were pushing it with their feet to show it good it was at balance). Obviously it's just a machine, but a lot of people saw some dudes kicking a dog.


There was also a big internal fight because Google thought the future robots should use wheels, but the engineers at Boston dynamics wanted to keep betting on legs.

An hybrid was made that was awesome [1], but I think that in the end, both companies had a different vision for what they wanted to build.

[1]


I think you mean this one... Handle Robot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP_NCB3KkiY

It is impressive, especially the jumps, lifts, and spins.


Ups, yeah, I forgot to paste the link, Thanks!


My memory of this was that Google PR thought that humanoid robots might end up leading to associations with automation and job destruction. Also, it was never clear to me how much influence the PR position had vs. other reasons.


It's exaggerated/false reporting. In 2015 Google was in the process of cleaning up its finances. The sale of Boston Dynamics really came from BD executives and Google execs clashing over the future direction of the company where one party wanted to continue from a more pure R&D direction, while the other wanted a path to revenue/profitability in < 5 years. Not having come to an agreement Google/Alphabet put up BD for sale.


Have Google sold off their whole Glass division too?


What would it cost them to attach a friendly dog head and a wagging tail on this headless monster? It would make it more appealing to the public and improve PR. Imagine thousands of these things walking up and down the sidewalks of NYC. They would scare the crap out of everybody.


Yeah the previous version of SpotMini was way more cuter with it's hand/head https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf7IEVTDjng


The problem with that is that you would get further into the uncanny valley, it would actually make the problem worse before BD gets effective enough to make it out of the uncanny valley.


Sony's Aibo suggests otherwise.

The trick is to aim for stylistic rather than photorealistic.


It's incredibly scary to see this technology in current political and media climate of extensive and easily created distractions, smokescreens and outright lies.

Some technology can wait till we humans can handle it.

It might be difficult to copy nuclear bombs, but this will be easy to replicate and unleash upon the world.


This seems like they are going to sell it? I certainly hope so.


Tell me that doesn't look like the Terminator version of the Demidog from Stranger Things 2


Do they yet have a use case for these things that doesn't involve military?


Maybe they could be used for hikes and climbs where you could put all of your camp gear on it and have it follow behind.


Basic income for donkeys!


How do would you recharge the batteries?


Ethanol power generator and a couple of vodka bottles maybe?


Search and rescue.


Autonomous delivery in cities? Amazon prime now deliveries via cute dog robot.


That's a nice research/prestige project but I question the economic viability in comparison with, e.g., delivery by bicycle. But of course, then you would have to deal with humans and that's probably not one of Amazon's strengths.


You seriously can’t think of a use case for an all terrain, all weather robot?


Could make it horse sized and we could ride them.


Stop it Boston Dynamics. You're the scariest of them all.


Do they have commercially available products or just R&D?


How DARE you call spotmini creepy!!




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