Imagine a headless robotic dog twice your size that moves around unpredictably. That was the parking lot scene when Googlers introduced the Boston Dynamics robo-dog Spot to Cosmo the terrier.
I’d probably bark like crazy, too.
Google-owned Boston Dynamics first unveiled the electronically powered Spot early last year. The remote-controlled quadruped robot weighs 160 pounds, sports navigational sensors in its head, can haul around 40 pounds, and has the ability to get back up after being knocked on its side (video).
Although bloggers, including myself, initially thought the dog was Alex, Android's team mascot, turns out his name is Cosmo. He belongs to Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who currently heads up the tech startup incubator Playground Global. Unsurprisingly, Cosmo barks loudly and appears to be trying to herd Spot. But this thing has a “battle mode.”
In the YouTube video posted by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, a woman asks Spot’s operator to be careful. Off-camera we hear, “Robot takes out Andy Rubin’s dog — that would not be good.” The operator responds that he’s actually trying to keep the quadruped robot away. Great.
Fortunately Cosmo makes it out unscathed, and even kind of wins. After watching the video, Rubin tweeted ”best board meeting ever?” so he must not be too mad. Watch what Jurvetson called the “uncanny uncanine valley” interaction here:
If Spot showed up in my territory unannounced and began moving around me in unpredictable ways, I’d be pretty freaked out. This is no cuddly PARO. After all, Boston Dynamics initially designed Spot for military operations. Apparently this is the only Spot in civilian hands.
The Marine Corps tested out Spot last fall with an eye on using the robot for scouting or carrying loads. Despite its lack of autonomy, the bot ended up being quieter than its lawnmower-like rival, the LS3 robo-mule.
“Robots can’t get shot and they can’t die,” DARPA roboticist Ben Swilling told IGN about the week-long evaluation. You don’t need to tell that to real dogs. They already sniffed it out.