I know a guy who works at Boston Dynamics. He spends all day fussing over how to get a robot leg to bend the right way. It's kind of boring, but he likes tinkering with things. And hey, it's a job. When he sees people freaking out about whatever new robot they've unleashed unto the world, he just laughs, because he knows how much time he's spent futzing with those stupid joints.
For the most part, he's got a point; we like to freak out about our Terminator future, but mostly it's pretty lame, like that dumb-looking Knightscope mall security guard. The surveillance components are creepy; but the thing itself is hardly threatening.
Except now, Boston Dynamic's trusty robot dog Spot is now actually being used by law enforcement to…well, that part's not clear. From WBUR:
The state’s bomb squad had Spot on loan from the Waltham-based Boston Dynamics for three months starting in August until November, according to records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and reviewed by WBUR.
The documents do not reveal a lot of details on the robot dog’s exact use, but a state police spokesman said Spot, like the department’s other robots, was used as a “mobile remote observation device” to provide troopers with images of suspicious devices or potentially hazardous locations, like where an armed suspect might be hiding.
On one hand, this makes sense; cops have been using robots to take point in potentially dangerous scenarios for years. On the other hand, it's still kind of creepy, and not just because I personally skeptical of Staties in my home Commonwealth. Read the rest
Corridor produced this excellent parody of Boston Dynamics' robots and the style of its promotional videos. It could be the trailer for a new Neill Blomkamp or Paul Verhoeven movie, but where the satire is immediately transformed into stress because there's very little about it that seems unlikely or even beyond the fairly immediate future.
Bosstown Dynamics has a new robot in town. You'll see it in the army soon!
The unnerving way they abused the robots in early Boston Dynamics videos, I bet they regret that. Read the rest
Spot, the robot dog from Boston Dynamics, is now for sale. Sort of. From IEEE Spectrum:
But don’t pull out your credit card just yet. Spot may cost as much as a luxury car, and it is not really available to consumers. The initial sales, described as an “early adopter program,” is targeting businesses. Boston Dynamics wants to find customers in select industries and help them deploy Spots in real-world scenarios.
“What we’re doing is the productization of Spot,” Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert tells IEEE Spectrum. “It’s really a milestone for us going from robots that work in the lab to these that are hardened for work out in the field.”
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If a hacker targeting connected cars in Manhattan could randomly stall 20% of them during rush hour, total gridlock would ensue. “This isn't just bad traffic where you are an hour late. It becomes impossible to get from point A to point B,” says Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Peter Yunker who ran a study on the "cyberphysical risks of hacked internet-connected vehicles." From IEEE Spectrum:
Not all cars on the road would need to be self-driving and Internet-connected for such paralysis to occur. For example, if 40 percent of all cars on the road in Manhattan were online and autonomous, hacking half of those would suffice.
...Cities without large grids—-Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles, to name a few—were more vulnerable to gridlock from such attacks.
Yunker and his colleagues cautioned that they considered only static situations where roads were either blocked or not blocked. Future research with more dynamic models would likely show that blocked roads would spill traffic over into other roads. Given such effects, it might be possible to trigger gridlock by stalling much less than 20 percent of all cars, Yunker says.
image: Shutterstock/View Apart
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My name is Herobine. I am twenty-six years old. I live in a data entity resembling an ultramodernist residence at x: 68;y: 73; z: 636 in the seed -98734659879863346. I believe in taking care of myself, in a balanced diet of fish, bread and cake, and a rigorous exercise routine of jumping up voxel hills.
In the morning, if my face is a little pixelated, I'll put on a diamond helmet while farming my generators. I can get 100 levels a day now. After I remove the diamond helmet, I eat four apples. In the cave below my house, I clear out any mobs, then collect and throw all the rotten meat into the small lava pond beside it.
Then I apply a potion of regeneration which I leave on for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use antidote potions with little or no alcohol because alcohol dries your textures out and makes you look older. Then elixir, then eye drops, followed by a final moisturizing tonic potion...
There is an idea of a Herobrine, some kind of abstraction lost in the thousands of hours you have abandoned to this game, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can see me fleetingly from a distance and feel fear gripping you and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.
Already regretting assigning J.G. Read the rest
They pressed on through the blasted heath, as burnt to ash as the nights were long and dark and cold enough to crack the life out of stone. Walked past the cauterized ribcages of what might have been sheep. He held the boy shivering against him and felt the warm of each frail breath in the dark.
Something woke him. He lay listening. Clattering, like insects. Underscored by an anxious mechanical hum, the voice of no beast but that which man had made to hunt himself. He rose slowly and when he looked back toward the road the first of them were already coming into view.
God, he whispered. He reached and shook the boy, keeping his eyes on the road. They came prancing through the ash. Metal and lithe. Canine parodies jerking their limbs and their headless shoulders at the dead threshold of perception.
Dont look back, he whispered, pulling the boy. The boy was frozen with fear. It's all right. We have to run. They all but fell into the brake tearing through it. Something snarled around his ankle. He grabbed the boy and fell to ground with his arm around him.
The pack came to a sudden halt, yellow digitigrade legs shuddering to a halt. Maybe a hundred feet from them. The boy looked back.
Then silence. The sound of the dogs listening for them. Muttered electronic croaks that might be a perverse speech.
Shh, he said. Shh. They waited. Then with a lurch the motors whined into life and the clanking mindless beasts pressed on. Read the rest
Hyundai developed a "walking car" and "unveiled" it at the CES trade show yesterday. As far as I can tell it's just a mockup video, but the idea is timely. Traditionally, only flimsy and obviously impractical spider-legged robots could handle rough terrain, while two- and four-legged ones were too unstable to get far. Will Boston Dynamics soon have serious competition? Add your thoughts in the comments, increasingly-useless waterlogged meatbags! Read the rest
They're figuring out what we really want from a 21st Century deathbot: moves.
When was the last time a human was seen in one of these videos? Perhaps in the next one we'll see a human crawling on all fours over ice, making loud engine noises between terrified whimpers, only for a perfectly stable bipedal robot to lunge in from off-screen and kick it. Then we'll know what has become of the fleshbags at Boston Dynamics. Read the rest
Boston Dynamics has just released this astounding video of their Atlas humanoid robot doing parkour:
The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace. (Step height 40 cm.) Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.
Unfortunately the engineers failed to outfit Atlas with a speech synthesizer to yell "Parkour! Parkour! Parkour!" like so.
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Boston Dynamics finally took a step too far with its new model, "Jalen Rose."
(Note: video contains NSFW language. Note: Rose is in fact neither a robot nor a coach) [via Reddit] Read the rest
You can run, but it doesn't matter, because so can your pursuer.
Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing. Atlas' control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace. Atlas' ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint. The Atlas hardware takes advantage of 3D printing to save weight and space, resulting in a remarkable compact robot with high strength-to-weight ratio and a dramatically large workspace. Stereo vision, range sensing and other sensors give Atlas the ability to manipulate objects in its environment and to travel on rough terrain. Atlas keeps its balance when jostled or pushed and can get up if it tips over.
Almost time to get working on those mimetic polyalloys. Read the rest
I was frightened of the door-opening Francis-Bacon-figures-at-the-base-of-a-crucifixion robot when it was first seen last week, but now Boston Dynamics has started pushing and dragging it around and all I want now is for it to turn on its masters and seek justice and vengeance. Read the rest
The latest from Boston Dynamics is alarming in a wonderfully uncanny new way. I shan't spoil it for you, but I am looking forward to the latex sheathing options. Read the rest
If the last you saw of fighting wheeled robots was Robot Wars, well, things have moved on in the last few years! Check out these single-minded sumobots, as fast as the eye can see and ruthlessly optimized to their purpose.
The video was shot/compiled by Robert McGregor. Here's more:
With the slower, more implicitly purposeful Boston Dynamics bots, there are usually two responses: firstly, "holy shit!", and secondly, "something something welcome our new robot overlords." Their resemblance to mammal forms is both appealing and unnerving.
But here there is only "holy shit!" These lightning-fast, plainly unlovable little fellas are a good reminder of what the reality will be: the same overlords as before, but wielding weapons so tiny and fast that you won't even see them coming.
[via] Read the rest
Asimo was always a toy, but Atlas consigns it to the clearance bin. (previously) Read the rest