Monday, March 8, 2021

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog is now armed – in the name of art

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In Spot’s Rampage, the robot walks through an art gallery with a paintball gun.

Boston Dynamics has racked up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube with viral clips of his futuristic legged robots dance together, do parkour, and working in a warehouse.

A group of meme pranksters now want to present a more dystopian take on the company’s robotic technology. They added a paintball gun to Task, the company’s dog machine, and plan to let others control it in an art gallery mockup via the internet later this week.

The project, called Spot Rampage, is the work of MSCHF (pronounced “mischief,” of course), an Internet collective that regularly pulls meme-worthy pranks.

Previous MSCHF stunts include the creation an app that rewarded $ 25,000 whoever could hold a button down the longest; sell “Jesus shoesSneakers with real holy water in the soles (Drake bought a pair); develop a astrology based stock picker app; and cut and sell individual spots from a painting by Damian Hirst.

MSCHF member Daniel Greenberg says there is a serious side to Spot’s Rampage. “Every time you see a TikTok or a dance, it’s like, ‘Oh God, Spot is so happyGreenberg says. “But if we’re frankly talking about what it’s going to be used for in the real world, you could say it’s the police, you could say it’s military.”

It goes without saying, Boston Dynamics is not very happy. The company tweeted Friday: “We condemn the presentation of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation. Our mission is to create and deliver amazingly performing robots that inspire, delight and positively impact society.

Michael Perry, the company’s vice president of business development, says Spot’s terms of service prohibit violent uses of the robot. “The essential things that we try to avoid are the things that harm people, intimidate them, or break the law,” Perry says.

Perry adds that this is of particular concern as the company tries to sell its robots. “It’s not just a moral point, it’s also a commercial point for us,” he says.

Since the robot regularly connects to Boston Dynamics servers, it would theoretically be possible to deactivate the Spot used by MSCHF. “We’re struggling with that,” Perry adds. The MSCHF team claims to have a workaround ready just in case.

Boston Dynamics has spent decades developing robots that balance themselves dynamically – that is, by constantly moving – in order to traverse difficult terrain. The academia-driven technology was developed with funding from Darpa for over a decade before Google acquired it in 2013. Boston Dynamics was sold to Softbank in 2017 and acquired by Hyundai in 2020. The company started selling Spot for $ 74,500 in 2019.



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