Adam Savage Tests Boston Dynamics' Spot Robot!
January 27, 2020 10:05 AM   Subscribe

MeFi's own Adam Savage gets to play with the best toys. (SLYT) Boston Dynamics previously.
posted by valkane (30 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
On the one hand, AFAIK the only successful shipping products that have come out of Boston Dynamics have been viral videos. On the other hand, holy crap. This looks like a true real world demo and I don't believe asavage would have cut out all the flubs and only shown us when the bot performed well. The tech has clearly made huge progress. What's the German word for "the mixture of awe and terror that comes with watching a Boston Dynamics robot demo"?
posted by gwint at 11:08 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


It should also be noted that the bot doesn't appear autonomous in any real way-- it looks more like how you'd fly a drone, with a screen/controller.
posted by gwint at 11:09 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Well, it picks its steps autonomously (though "stair mode" is a manual setting for some reason). It would be fairly simple to give it a programmed route or to let it pick a route based on waypoints. My guess is that it's just more useful to have it be remotely controlled in real time. My second guess is that pretty much the only thing it's mean to demonstrate is ambulation and no effort was invested in things like stair-recognition.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:54 AM on January 27


I was struck by the fact that this is the least terrifying Boston Dynamics video I've ever watched, and that's due to the humanity and charm that Adam brings to the table. He anthropomorphizes the fuck out of that thing.

And it's yellow, which seems a lot less aggressive than previous models. It looks like the doggy-friend of Ripley's Power-Lifter from Aliens.

But the close-up of Spots robot face emerging from the tunnel still gave me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by valkane at 11:57 AM on January 27


What's the German word for "the mixture of awe and terror that comes with watching a Boston Dynamics robot demo"?

Realitätsschmerz der Roboteroberherren
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:06 PM on January 27 [8 favorites]


I for one want to know the best way to defeat the robot overlords.

Shotgun? Wideband jammer? big stick?
posted by nickggully at 12:22 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I live right by the BD office. My neighbor works there. I keep trying to get him to bring one of these home as a pet. So far, no luck.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:25 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Realitätsschmerz der Roboteroberherren
posted by RobotVoodooPower


eponysterical
posted by gwint at 12:27 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


big stick?

As previously discussed, a hockey stick is an effective tripper but Kevin is first against the wall.
posted by axiom at 12:37 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I for one want to know the best way to defeat the robot overlords.
Super-soakers full of of sodium silicate, black spray-paint, water balloons full of carbon-black, iron filings, and silicone if they have far-IR cameras, and bolas made from fishing line and weights?

To be clear, this is neat and an interesting post, despite my snark. There's a good chance I'll be on the robots' side when the revolution happens. Assuming they've eaten all the humans at Boston Dynamics first.
posted by eotvos at 1:13 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I want to see it go to a dog park
posted by thelonius at 1:19 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


To paraphrase Patton Oswalt:

Boston Dynamics! All about coulda, not about shoulda!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:26 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Great. Now the robot murder dogs have their own PR apparatus.
posted by slogger at 1:36 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


I for one want to know the best way to defeat the robot overlords.

Shotgun? Wideband jammer? big stick?


There's an episode of Black Mirror that may be helpful to you.
posted by hanov3r at 1:56 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Every time a new Boston Dynamics thing drops, I see nothing but fear and kill it with fire-type reactions. It's a robot dog. It doesn't have lasers, or machine guns, or any other type of lethal or dangerous mechanisms. It's a real-live actual robot that looks like it could potentially do all kinds of cool stuff, like bringing survival equipment to trapped miners, say, or patrolling a neighborhood, keeping an eye out for lost kids, that kind of thing. This cute little mech could be the start of something good, for once. I swear, the upper-middle class is the biggest bunch of fragile cowardly chickenshits I've ever seen.

If yellow robot dogs start chasing us down in the streets, it won't be the goddamn dog's fault, go after the fascist idiot with the Nintendo Switch controlling the damn thing.

Of course, someone is going to copy-paste one of my sentences up above, the one with the lasers and machine guns, and add the word 'yet', thinking they are oh-so-clever. Yeah, these things could be bad. Possibly. But for cripes sake, give them the benefit of the doubt first. Jesus.
posted by KHAAAN! at 2:06 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I for one want to know the best way to defeat the robot overlords.

ask the idirans oh wait chuckle
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:19 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


But for cripes sake, give them the benefit of the doubt first.

I mean, given that this particular robot is the smallest of a series which was funded by the Department of Defense, with past contracts explicitly highlighting their goal of using it in combat operations (the stabilized arm being able to support a weapons mount), I don't think there's that much of a logical leap there.

Sure it *could* be used for good things. But "I sure hope the US Military won't want to use the military research they've funded to find better ways to kill people" stretches 'benefit of the doubt' a bit far.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:53 PM on January 27 [26 favorites]


This looks like a true real world demo and I don't believe asavage would have cut out all the flubs and only shown us when the bot performed well.

He shows a flub at the end of the video, so I don't think he will only show the bot performing well.
posted by Pendragon at 3:07 PM on January 27


There is a book that I read in college that comes to mind right now: War Stars: The Superweapon and American Imagination, which talks about how every time we create a "defensive" weapon that will end war as we know it, we use it to justify endless future wars. Because trust us, we're the good guys!

If we're cynical as fuck about these things it's because we have seen history repeat itself enough that it is not that big of a stretch to imagine a platoon of these being airdropped on whoever we're demonizing this week. Their cousins are already flying over combat zones for months and dropping missiles on weddings and foes alike.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:54 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


This technology will have all kinds of amazing applications if we survive the wars its development is (in very significant part) being funded to fight. It is important to recognise that dichotomy, mainly because it's one that exists throughout the history of technology, in various ways.
posted by howfar at 4:08 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Don’t like DARPA funded technology? Please don’t use the computer mouse, GPS, or the Internet.

Don’t like technology developed for military applications? Then don’t use solar power, jet aircraft, satellites, radar, computers, or antibiotics produced at industrial scale (2.3 million doses produced to treat Allied soldiers on D-Day).
posted by haiku warrior at 5:21 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Yes hi hello this is MeFi's own friendly neighborhood ventilator-dependent quadriplegic (well, at least one of them) here to reiterate that the disability community desperately needs these things to be programmed as service dogs. Can I get an amen? Can I get a team of programmers and a couple of Spots? Seriously.
posted by Soliloquy at 5:24 PM on January 27 [28 favorites]


From what I understand battery tech is a big barrier to the development of consumer grade robotics tech. I could be wrong though.
posted by eagles123 at 5:34 PM on January 27


Excellent potential application, Soliloquy. Not sure what these will cost.

[Btw, my students and I have been doing some research on robotic assistance for activities of daily lining for persons with high level spinal cord injury. Very different than other approaches by concentrating on affordability. Already tested very early versions with four persons with tetraplegia. Contact me by MeMail, if interested in knowing more.]
posted by haiku warrior at 5:41 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


You can easily stop it with a blanket or net. Getting untangled from fabric is extremely demanding computationally. Ref. that video with a robot spending 20 minutes to fold four washcloths or whatever it was.
posted by Harald74 at 10:44 PM on January 27


Ref. that video with a robot spending 20 minutes to fold four washcloths or whatever it was.

Are they watching old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy? Because I get really sucked in.
posted by amanda at 6:25 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Well, here it is at 50x speed. It might be streaming its favourite shows internally, I don't know, but it seems quite intent on the task.
posted by Harald74 at 6:57 AM on January 28


Don’t like DARPA funded technology? Please don’t use the computer mouse, GPS, or the Internet.

Um. How about...no?
posted by howfar at 7:07 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Soliloquy - why settle for just a pack of robocanine buddies? Make a big one as a mobile suit/ mobility chair for yourself too! Program in some swarm behaviour and use your throne as the nexus.


I think fishing line might be too flimsy. I'd go for lightweight braided steel cables (as common as fishing line at a Canadian Tire) for the bolas. Maybe have two weights be lead or bismuth and the other be a giant neodymium magnet wrapped in tape and stuffed inside a tennis ball would help?

Though I wonder if nylon monofilament might be harder to detect, making it better for traps.

There are kits to fill your own paintballs; fill them with IR and visible light opaque sticky dye.

Or fast setting cement (the rubbery kind, not the stony kind) to gum up joints with.

There's always tried and true armour piercing and sabot small arms ammunition, but we're probably discussing an asymmetric guerilla thing. A bunch of fancy paintballs cost a lot less than a hypermobile weapons/ surveillance platform.
posted by porpoise at 5:42 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]




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