Boston Dynamics's AI
Dance Spot Dance
By: Mark Faveremann - Jun 01, 2023
In recent months, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics has been deemed by journalists and other critics as demonic forces that will endanger the future of humanity. And there are reasons to fear these nightmare scenarios: dangers include the spread of misinformation, AI-fueled warfare, privacy violations, and automation replacing humans. Many outspoken artists, writers, designers, and tech-savvy entrepreneurs argue that this technology is already impacting, for the worse, creativity, truthfulness, and respect for human life. The public is also skeptical: a recent Quinnipiac University poll reported that a majority of Americans (54%) believe that AI could be disastrous for humanity.
But, while this essential debate rages, attention should be paid to the other side. A Boston-area corporation, Boston Dynamics, is demonstrating how these technologies can be potentially life-changing, a force for good rather than evil.
Founded thirty-five years ago by electrical engineer Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics is a Waltham-based progeny of MIT that is now a subsidiary of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company. One of the world leaders in the field of Robotics, BD says that its “mission is to imagine and create exceptional robots that enrich people’s lives. “ The company’s gifted engineers (electrical, mechanical, robotic, etc.), industrial designers, and computer wizards focus their efforts on creating machines that can move with the flexibility, dexterity, and agility of people and animals. These products are designed to be the next evolutionary step in machinery, used to reduce physical danger and tedious repetition, to ease the physical demands of everyday work. The designs reflect BD’s dedication to functionality and elegance.
The company’s two and four legged automatons have not been fashioned to be prowling Terminators. (Though one assumes that the military could potentially look at them that way.) These dynamic machines are intended to be helpful assistants. The very humanoid “Atlas” demonstrates how an advanced control system and state-of-the-art hardware can give robots a sense of balance that rivals human-level agility and dexterity. The dog-like “Spot” is an agile mobile robot that navigates terrain with unprecedented flexibility: it can handle routine inspection tasks safely, frequently, and accurately. “Stretch” is a tireless robot dedicated to automated boxes, containers and cartons handling for more efficient warehouse operations. With its tongue-firmly-in-cheek, Boston Dynamics refers to its version of AI as “Athletic Intelligence.
The classic reader Dick and Jane gave us “Run, Spot, run. See Spot run.” Boston Dynamics has come up with the refrain “Dance, Spot, dance.”