Hey, remember that dog-like robot, SpotMini, that Boston Dynamics showed off last week, the one that opened a door for its robot friend? Well, the company just dropped a new video starring the canine contraption. In this week's episode, a human 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 an ... unsettling manner. The dogbot wins and gets through the door anyway.
For internet-goers, Boston Dynamics is that company that uploads insane videos of the humanoid Atlas robot doing backflips, of four-legged SpotMini opening doors and fighting off stick-wielding men, and as of last week, of a Segway-on-mescaline called Handle jetting around picking up and stacking boxes with a vacuum arm. For journalists and industry watchers, however, Boston Dynamics is that company that almost never talks about where all of this work is ultimately headed. The company is now teasing its ambitions as the four-legged SpotMini nears its commercial release. Today, Boston Dynamics is getting even more explicit about its vision with an announcement that it's acquired a Silicon Valley startup called Kinema Systems, which builds vision software that helps industrial robot arms manipulate boxes. This acquisition is giving the Handle robot the gray matter it needs to follow SpotMini to market.
In recent years, the engineers over at Boston Dynamics have been doing some of the most advanced robotics work on the planet. They've also been diligent about documenting their work and posting videos. For the dedicated robot video enthusiast, the company's YouTube channel is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest video featuring Boston Dynamics' robotic stars actually comes from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), and shows BD's Atlas robot balancing -- on one foot -- atop the edge of a plywood board less than an inch thick. It's a short clip, just under 30 seconds, and might not seem like much at first glance.
They are wise-cracking companions, able to communicate in more than six million languages. Others are bent on enslaving or destroying humanity, deeming themselves better, more rational caretakers of the Earth in light of our irrational behaviors. Pilot or garbage man, soldier or slave, hero or villain--robots have played every role imaginable in popular science fiction for nearly a century. In the 21st century, real-life robots inspired by their fictional counterparts are beginning to take starring roles in everyday life. Several companies, Google among them, are testing autonomous cars (unfortunately, there is no indication that they will be able to travel into the past or future anytime soon).