Robo era dawns
BOSTON Dynamics has 23,000 followers on Twitter, but they follow nobody in return.
Their mission is simple; to create the most advanced forms of robots on the planet. This is an account that you don’t want to hack. If you do there is a good chance that robots will hunt you down and eat your laptop.
The website shows a (mostly male) bunch of boffins and geeks and tech-heads. This is a collaboration of engineers and ideas; a spin-off of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The company is cited as “the leading developer of advanced dynamic robots”. They have been releasing videos on social media of their creations and every time they do, it goes viral. Humans love robots, but we are also weirded out by them. We know that in our lifetime, they will change the way we live on planet Earth.
The Boston Dynamics robots are all engine and titanium. Exposed wires, no skin.
You can see they are machines. But they mimic movement perfectly. They lope like dogs and horses. They traverse snowbound car parks on all fours. They are remote controlled but they run at a perfect speed, never faltering in the Boston cold.
They can now also mimic hu- mans. Some can pick up parcels and stack shelves, leap from one step to another and backflip. They can run through the forest and find their footing on a slippery surface, they can be pushed over by a guy with an ice hockey stick in his hands and find their feet again without assistance.
This week a new video appeared and went viral. This robot has four legs, walks like a dog, and it can work in concert with another robot. Together, they can collaborate to open a door. This is the stuff of nightmares. This company is creating a superior form of mechanised life, completely unencumbered by a committee of ethics or any governmental oversight.
This can be a scary proposition for humans.
Maybe this is why Boston Dynamics have chosen such user friendly names for their astonishing creations?
Their current stable includes; “Spot”, “Spot Mini”, “BigDog”, “Handle” and “Atlas”.
“BigDog” is one metre high and can carry 45 kilograms. He is shaped like a rhino crossed with a pit-bull and a giant insect. He runs on “gasoline” but apart from the fossil fuel draw back, he is unstoppable.
“WildCat” runs at 32km/h. She has the capacity to lean into turns and was developed from “Cheetah”, who was a laboratory prototype. In the lab “Cheetah” ran at 48km/h. That is faster than Usain Bolt.
Their rollcall of names sounds like a goofy neighbourhood pet party. And then there is “LS3”.
LS3 can carry over 180kg and was “designed to go anywhere “marines and soldiers go on foot ... helping to carry their loads”.
Suddenly it’s not so cute and science geek-chic. Robots who can carry loads make sense. There are many uses for robots to lift packa- ges, stack shelving and continue to work in this fashion 24/7, right? They may be tasked with delivering pizza and making sure the 7-Eleven is open in the middle of the night. But robots designed for marines and soldiers, that can communicate with each other? Remember the famous footage of 2017? The British political expert giving his thoughts on Korea. The footage went viral because his four-year-old daughter opened the door and danced into the room. The broadcast was live and hilarity ensued, but just imagine if that interruption had come from LS3? Of course this will never happen. Of course this paranoid dramatisation belongs in Hollywood, not in reality. But how far away is singularity? When do we get told that we have stepped over the line and entered the new era of design that can never be put into reverse? Technology is impossible to harness. The urge to explore is in our DNA. The atom got split. This knowledge was used for an atomic weapon. The only down side in an otherwise successful exploration of our physical world. But now we know. If we build it, they will come.