If you are dreaming of a world where humans, animals and robots can peacefully coexist, you might have to wait a while. According to a recent video, posted by US-based venture capitalist and businessman Steve Jurvetson, biological dogs seem to be quite hostile towards their robotic counterparts. Adorable though it is, the video shows Cosmo, a terrier, barking and howling at Spot, an advanced robot dog three times its size.
Built by scientists at Google-owned Boston Dynamics laboratory, Spot is an incredibly innovative rough-terrain robotic dog intended for both indoor and outdoor operation. Smaller than the company’s famous BigDog robot, this quadruped automaton weighs around 160 lb (or 72.5 kg), and is lot more agile than its predecessor. Powered electrically, it is similar to the spectacular Atlas humanoid robot, in that it uses a hydraulic actuator system for its movements.
Spot relies on LIDAR surveying technology for navigation, which in turn makes it more sure-footed than the other robotic dogs created by Boston Dynamics. Unlike BigDog, which features forward-angled legs, the new automaton sports a unique backward-angled leg design that allows it to walk, run, climb and even hop over all kinds of terrain. What is more, it is equipped with an array of special elements, thanks to which it can absorb shock as well as harvest energy every time it takes a step.
It is the only robot by the company that is available to civilians. In a recent video, uploaded by Jurvetson, Spot can be seen undergoing testing at Boston Dynamics’ parking lot. Interestingly, the automaton is not particularly liked by biological dogs. The footage clearly shows Cosmo, a small dog belonging to Android co-founder and former Google Robotics manager Andy Rubin, locked in a heated face-off with Spot. Jurvetson told IEEE Spectrum:
I was told that this is the only Spot (their latest robot) in civilian hands. And the tradition of the uncanny valley continues . . . To the un-canine valley!
The US Marine Corps hopes to employ Spot as a recon robot in the future. Before that can happen, however, the scientists have to find a way to ensure that it gets along with real dogs. Speaking about the automaton, Capt. James Pineiro, the head of Warfighting Laboratory’s Ground Combat Element department, said:
I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset. The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.
The robot, along with Boston Dynamics’ Legged Squad Support System (LS3), are currently in storage at the Warfighting Lab, with no immediate plans for testing.
Watch last year’s introductory video showcasing Spot in action: