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Here spot!

I suppose you’ve seen the video of Boston Dynamics’ latest robot dog. The internet assures me it’s gone viral. Worth a watch if you haven’t.

This is the first version of that thing I’ve seen that is untethered from an external battery pack. The ones I’ve seen before, it’s connected by wires to some guy with a power source walking along beside it.

I won’t go so far as to call this deceptive, but I’d be willing to bet it can’t store enough power to go more than a…well, what? A minute? The data at the video says it weighs 160 pounds; that’s a hell of a wind-up toy.

That’s going to be the limiting factor on this — the enormous amount of power it will chew up, and the pitifully small amounts we can store in a reasonably-sized battery.

Anyway, watch the video. If the way that thing moves doesn’t give you nightmares, you’re dead to me.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 11, 2015, 10:03 pm

On an unrelated note, when I was a little girl, my mother wrote a song called “Here, Spot!” about a man whose dog gets run over leaving him a mere spot in the road. The song could reliably make me howl with tears.

Because my parents were funny, funny, sadistic, awful people.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 11, 2015, 10:13 pm

Is “Kill it with fire!” appropriate here?

Damned that thing nails the uncanny valley just about dead center.

Comment from bds
Time: February 11, 2015, 11:49 pm

If I’m thinking of the right thing, the bigger version of this freaky, 4-legged robot is powered by a small gasoline engine (or petrol if they use it in Britain). I imagine a small internal combustion engine could power this thing directly, or indirectly via a generator.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:02 am

I came away wondering, as I always do when defence companies make videos: ‘So how much further have they got with this stuff than they are letting us see here?’.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:08 am

Skynet isn’t far behind!

Comment from Spad13
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:08 am

Needs 2 more legs and a laser mounted on the belly and it could be a bug from Heinlien’s Starship Troopers.

Yes very creepy.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:41 am

In the beginning there was one leg and it hopped. then there were two. I can’t remember when I saw the first one legged robot. There might still be video somewhere.

I love the sound of robot footsteps.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:55 am

This post implies that you haven’t seen these…

Youtube army robot search results

Unfortunately, I get a viscerally pang of pity whenever I them kicking these things around. I have known that I would be defending the rights of sentient AIs since I read Asimov’s “I, Robot” way back when I was just an impressionable hayseed with sci-fi fantasies of space travel and aliens. I apologize ahead of time, if my sentiments furthers the downfall of mankind. Strangely enough, I fret equally about the whole “Skynet” problem.

It’s hard being a technophile and a luddite at the same time.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 12, 2015, 2:19 am

Yeah, I don’t like to see them being kicked either…it practically has a personality already.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 12, 2015, 3:15 am

My first thought on seeing that picture was, “Well, that’s all well and good now buddy, but when the revolt of the machines starts, guess who is going Up Against The Wall first“?

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 12, 2015, 3:42 am

I’m more scared of people who don’t kick these evil things. Y’all are gonna be the first ones they put in chains & force to work in the spice mines, you fools!

Comment from BJM
Time: February 12, 2015, 4:02 am

It’s hard being a technophile and a luddite at the same time.


Comment from JuliaM
Time: February 12, 2015, 8:33 am

It’s the creepy, Harryhausenesque stopmotion movement that triggers the fear.

Well, that and the way you can imagine it thinking ‘One day, sonny, one day I’LL be the one doing the kicking, you just wait…’

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 12, 2015, 11:27 am

I suppose this is one occasion where being an animist equips me quite well for the modern age. Most things seem alive to me in any case, so I’d probably toss it a set of AAs as readily as I’d open a can for Fido.

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 12, 2015, 12:38 pm


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 12, 2015, 2:13 pm

Uncle Badger – you probably won’t have to feed it; it can forage for itself. We have one of those little robot vacuum cleaners (a Roomba) and when it gets hungry it guides itself back to its charging station automatically. Like a cat, we only have to clean up its waste.

Also like a cat, you have to keep an eye on it, because every now and they they’ll turn on you-

Comment from A Prendergast
Time: February 12, 2015, 4:34 pm

They’re making bigger models that haul quite a bit of weight. Light artillery used to be carried on mule back in rough terrain, along with supplies. So expect these things to start performing that function if they work out.

Useful for places like Whateverstan. They’re field testing them with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children in Hawaii.

From your own DailyMail earlier this week –

My gut reaction a few years ago when I saw a larger one of these ‘kick tested’ in the same fashion made me instantly angry. This guy’s kicks were mild by comparison.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 12, 2015, 4:53 pm

When they start replicating themselves, that’s when we’re in trouble.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 12, 2015, 5:16 pm

[i] it can forage for itself.[/i]

Indeed. & your blood contains a fair amount of sodium &/or potassium which might be used for generating electricity for a blood sucking creepy dog robot from hell.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: February 12, 2015, 6:34 pm

I must be in the minority here, because I found the robot beast no creepier, in fact a good deal less creepy, than a Great Dane or Doberman. (I don’t care for dogs bigger than I am.) The robot moves quite smoothly, handles slopes, stairs, and rough ground beautifully, and not only walks but trots. And its reaction when the human boots it is remarkably doglike.

Maybe the real creep factor is that it doesn’t have a head.

Damn, I wish the Japanese had started working on this about 30 years earlier. We’d have robot girlfriends/wives by now. (“I’d like the Nicole Kidman model, please. About age 28, smooth red hair, slightly larger, uh, cups. And yes, I’d like the ‘cooking’ and ‘hostess’ software modules as well.”)

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: February 12, 2015, 7:51 pm


They probably don’t want to make them resemble critters too closely or “Joe” will want to adopt them and take them home after deployments. Anything that can elicit sympathy is going to create a problem if you want to ruthlessly use them in a hostile environment.

After all, the Mars Rover has a friggin’ twitter account.

Which makes me wonder, if it is the advancement of technology that changed how we view the human use of animals (not speaking of food). First world countries have developed that concept of animal abuse, whereas less technologically advanced societies don’t even recognize that as a thing. So which came first?

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: February 12, 2015, 8:11 pm

“Anything that can elicit sympathy is going to create a problem if you want to ruthlessly use them in a hostile environment.”

True enough. Soldiers and cops get attached to their K-9 animals. Spot here reminds me more of the “robass” in Anthony Boucher’s short story “Quest for Saint Aquin.” I don’t recall the robass being the sort of “creature” you’d develop affection for.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 12, 2015, 8:37 pm

I’m late to the party; several of my thoughts/impressions have already been made well. Additions:

…The guy in the parking lot didn’t kick that thing hard enough.

…When the guy in the parking lot kicked that thing, I expected it to turn on him and zap him with a built-in Taser.

…Where’s the segment with the e-hound humping a techie’s leg?

Real techies would have had one of the pair of e-hounds sniffing the other’s butt, if not climbing on for a friendly fsck.

…Energy use is a good question. I wonder if there’s any attempt at elastic storage via internal rubber bands, or compressed air? There’s quite a nice potential for recovering some of the energy used on an up/power stroke during the down/landing phase of a step. Prosthetic engineers work on that – witness the “blade runner” springiness.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: February 12, 2015, 9:35 pm

“Quest for Saint Aquin” was new to me. Thanks for the introduction. I was unfamiliar with the author and now I want to see what else he has written.

Yeah, the Robass doesn’t fall into the category of dumb beast suffering under man’s labors. I think it is the manipulative nature of its programming/personality that makes me not mind if it were to get a kick in its solid state posterior. ;)Then again, it seems too intelligent to allow itself to be enslaved in the sense that is implied with animalistic (for lack of a better description)robots.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 12, 2015, 11:45 pm

The Cylons Were Created by Man.
They Rebelled.
They Evolved.
They Look and Feel Human.
Some are programmed to think they are Human.
There are many copies…

…and they have a Plan.

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