One of the creepiest parts of the film Jurassic Park is when the velociraptor uses his witch-like claws to manipulate the door handle and enter the room where the children are hiding. Now imagine a headless dog robot doing that and being extremely persistent at it for 30 minutes. That’s what the latest video by Boston Dynamics demonstrates as the SpotMini robot returns to the limelight. (Also don’t miss the “Metalhead” episode of Black Mirror – Ed.)
Boston Dynamics, which was previously owned by Google but has since been acquired by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, has made headlines before with a humanoid robot called Atlas that can do backflips and somersaults. The company also received some flak for what some perceived as robot abuse when one of their videos showed employees violently shoving Atlas to the floor to test its balance. This could explain why the new video contains a caption that reads, “This testing does not irritate or harm the robot.”
Earlier in February, Boston Dynamics released a video showing the ability of the SpotMini to open doors. The robotic quadruped, which is shaped like a dog, has an arm mount where his head should be. It even holds the door open for a companion, showing that humanoid chivalry isn’t dead.
The new video shows that SpotMini will persist in trying to open the door even when a human with a hockey stick is thwarting its progress.
“Software provides locomotion, balance, and adjusts [SpotMini’s] behavior when progress gets off track,” continues the video’s YouTube caption. “The ability to tolerate and respond automatically to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot.”
While there’s a ways to go before robotics and artificial intelligence converge to create a flawlessly mobile sentient android, the field of robotics continues to make progress. One can only imagine where we’ll be in a few decades if current trends in automation persist.
Though some argue that innovations like this will eliminate millions of human manufacturing jobs — and many other human careers — experts say that deep learning algorithms and robotic automation will pave the way for new forms of human entrepreneurship and entirely new industries.
When one door closes, another opens…