Boston Dynamics (BD), a robot maker subsidiary of Google, is well on its way into developing some remarkably-engineered, fully-functioning, creepy robots.
What makes these robots creepy are not their designs. It’s their ability to mimic human and animal movements that make them look alien and disturbing.
BD has been known to release videos of their robot prototypes. Below are some of their more popular robots in action, beginning from the oldest upload:
LittleDog was intended to be used as a platform for software testing. It’s powered by lithium-polymer batteries that allows it to operate for 30 minutes without recharging.
As seen in the video, RiSE is an insect-Like Robot that can climb vertically. It has six legs powered by two electric motors as well as micro-claws.
Created in 2005 in collaboration with Foster-Miller, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and Harvard’s Concord Field Station, BigDog was created because of the military’s search for a robotic pack mule to assist soldiers in carrying equipment and supplies over ground that are inaccessible by vehicles. Its modified version can throw heavy cinder blocks a surprising distance. It was discontinued in late 2015 because of the noise it was making.
Cheetah is a robot that can run at a pace of 29 miles per hour.
SandFlea is created based on well, the flea, but this one’s a bigger version of the insect. Just like the insect, SandFlea can jump higher than your average human, 30 feet in the air to be exact. It can also roll over and jump over the roofs of buildings.
LS3 stands for Legged Squad Support System. It’s a descendant of BigDog created for more rugged military activities like hot, cold, wet and dirty situations. It can also carry 400 pounds of weight and it has enough fuel storage that can last for 20-mile missions.
RHex is basically used for rough terrain tasks. The robot can move on almost any surface even upside down. It can also move on water and mud.
A BD robot which I find most creepy of all, PETMAN stands for Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin. PETMAN is a droid designedfor the U.S. Department of Defense to test chemical protection suits. It may look like a human inside walking in the video up there, but it’s actually a robot that can perform a wide range of motions for testing suits. It can also simulate human physiology and control temperature, humidity, and even sweat!
Spot is a four-legged robot that resembles a dog and is a larger cousin of BigDog. It can keep on moving even if pushed. It can also handle all terrain, even stairs.
Here’s Spot meeting a real dog for the first time:
Atlas is a bipedal humanoid standing at around 6 feet and weighing around 180 pounds. Atlas has been designed to assist emergency responders in search-and-rescue operations, especially in situations where humans can’t survive. Atlas funder U.S. Department of Defense claimed they’re not planning on using the robot for offensive or defensive operations.
BD was created in 1992 as a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to allow robotics experts to continue studying robots outside of the academe. As seen in the videos, the company aims to create innovative machines which can be used in any condition outside the laboratory.
In a few years, it’s highly likely that we’ll be able to see these robots in the real world. While they’re definitely advantageous, I can’t help but think the other way around, where they can be manipulated for destruction. Terminator anyone?