Boston Dynamics and Robots

I’m sure we’ve all seen the Black Mirror story of the dog like robot chasing and executing humans in a distopian future, and that is a concern.

But how cool are the robots being made by Boston Dynamics?!

They have mastered jumping, running, balancing, loading and unloading a dishwasher, and all sorts of other cool tasks that we humans can do but robots previously couldn’t.

We’re literally a whisker away from Rosie the Robot Maid being a real thing.

The work these guys do is incredible though they have a group of robots that can cover everything, almost like Thunderbirds in robot form.

Sand Flea

SandFlea is a little robot that can leap small buildings in a single bound.

I’m not sure even I can suggest a practical use for that right now, outside of toys, but the military found it useful, maybe they want it to charge at buildings and leap the wall before exploding?

Big Dog

This seems more like a mechanical horse than a big dog, to me. It is a four-legged robot that can carry a load for you.

If they tweaked it to hold a seat, it’d revolutionise horse racing, travelling across deserts and all sorts of other horse / camel jobs that would let the animals be in peace – but realistically, probably wipe them out too if we’re honest.

Right now BigDog runs at 10 kmh, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs muddy hiking trails, walks in snow and water, and carries up to 150kg loads.

A bit more speed and mobility and this would be ripe for racing, I guess it can’t be too perfect or it would ruin the point of the race, but beyond that, it’d be cool to use them for delivery, reaching off-road places, and so forth. If solar power can advance enough to fuel them then they’d be ideal for desert travel.

They’ve already made a differently shaped one that can go a lot faster in Wildcat:

RHEX

An all terrain robot, looks like it would be good for getting into hard to reach places by remote control, maybe placing a camera, search and rescue, or simply exploration.

I’d unleash an army of these into dumps to carry out a WALL-E like clean up job. Imagine training them to know whether items are salvagable / valuable and sending them into steaming mounds of rubbish to ‘manage’ it all, they can highlight any ripe areas and send a bigger robot or a team in to sort it out.

Spot

Spot is one of the more famous robots, it looks similar to the one on the Black Mirror episode. This too could be used for search and carrying. It seems more suitable to the weaponised version from that fabled episode, and they are eerie in how autonomous they are.

It scares me how often they kick this robot about in this video – IT WILL REMEMBER.

Spot Mini is the HOME version – yes a home version! I think this was the Black Mirror one if we’re being precise about it…

Spot is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It senses its rough-terrain environment using LIDAR and stereo vision in conjunction with a suite of on-board sensors to maintain balance and negotiate rough terrain. It carries a 23 kg payload and operates for 45 minutes on a battery charge.

LS3 (below) is like the cow version of Spot and Big Dog – it literally carries a massive weight around on behalf of soldiers.

I saved the best – or at least most similar to us, ones for last – Handle and Atlas – these are awesome.

Handle uses wheels instead of legs and can go around carrying out tasks with its arms.

https://www.bostondynamics.com/handle

It makes me think that warehouse workers are soon to be out of a job as these things can lift as much as we can, and scoot around on wheels going from A to B stacking shelves and all sorts.

Their handling abilities will only get better and better in time, the video shows them going up and down stairs.

Again if we could solar power these, imagine how mad the world would be.

I talked about delivery drivers being the new retail workers because everything is going online, but if these things can leap out of driver-less cars, with packages in hand, for us then they’re out of a job too…

Atlas

This robot is amazing, and I fear it is a prototype terminator, or at least it’ll be replacing us all in one way or another in future.

It can walk around, lift and manipulate things with its hands. It is light and agile, being built with 3D Printers.

I discussed with a robotic company at gadget show a few years back how if you stuck a 3D printer in a robot so it could self repair and replicate, you’d have effectively created a new species. The guy was slightly bemused, but what is this if not that?

It doesn’t seem (to my ignorant eyes) to be a large jump to enable this robot to consume raw materials, use them to patch itself up, and if it is already made by a 3D printer then it can make more too.

It also feels like we’re not far off in terms of AI now meaning the two can combine to cover almost anything else imaginable.

There is already AI out there that is creating music, stories, art and so forth, it feels like eventually we’re going to have to re-evaluate how the hell society works.

If nobody can work to earn money, because machines do everything, and everything we buy is online and automated, then what do we do?

My assumption is wealthy people wont like it if their hard work reaches a point where they’re just another animal being cared for and entertained by robots.

If Amazon continue their domination of literally everything, but then automate out all of the work, then who will be their customers if humans are unemployed?

If we can consume all the food and drink we want using 3D Printing, and other advancements in food technology, such as turning literal poo into protein burgers that are indistinguishable from beef burgers then all we need to do is fill our days with entertainment.

If we have no money to buy it then no one will want to make it because they wont get paid for it.

So we’d need AI to do that.

But if AI can make perfect songs, great films and so forth, then what?

Will we start revelling in the imperfect stuff that’s done ‘for the passion’ because it is a bit more interesting?

Would AI adapt to that? An AI would never make a show like ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ for example.

These are the kind of questions that stick in my head for bloody ages – would we just spend our time playing games?

Solving puzzles and whiling away our time?

If so, what’s the end game there? Just stay alive indefinitely whilst medicine gets better and better and try to figure out the universe?

I guess this is where futures like Star Trek become a thing because we’ll all end up so bored of sitting around on earth we’ll decide to go exploring, purely to find questions we haven’t yet asked, that we can’t yet answer.

All those technologies would be perfect for blasting off into the void and seeing what happens.

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