Boston Dynamics’ festive robot video has a surprise ending

Robot specialists Boston Dynamics has shared a festive video featuring Spot, its dog-like robotic quadruped.

“We hope you have an uplifting holiday season!” the robotics team says in a message accompanying the 90-second skit, adding: “Spot was teleoperated by professional operators, don’t try this at home.”

The video shows Spot 1 carrying a large red bow that it clearly wants to place on top of the Christmas tree. But even when fully extended, and using its robotic arm, Spot 1 is unable to reach that high.

Enter Spot 2 and Spot 3, who arrange themselves into a kind of platform onto which Spot 1 climbs. Spots 2 and 3 then extend their legs to their full range, bringing the top of the tree within reach of Spot 1.

The robot then uses its arm to grab the bow before placing it carefully at the top of the tree.

It’s an impressive demonstration of Spot’s versatility, and also an unsettling example of how robots can work together to achieve an aim. However, anyone fearing a Spot uprising should definitely watch the entire video, as the surprise ending suggests that any kind of takeover by this particular robot won’t get very far (not yet, anyway).

Despite the calamitous ending, Spot is clearly an impressive bit of kit. Indeed, since 2020, Boston Dynamics has been marketing the machine to companies that want to use it to automate tasks such as inspections, monitoring, and mapping.

Auto giant Ford trialled the robot early on, using it to scan one of its production plants, which can change over time without being documented.

Ford officials were impressed by Spot’s ability to handle stairs and uneven terrain, and also the speed at which it worked.

In recent years the robot has also been seen in other roles, including assisting doctors and patients in Boston, working as a sheepdog in New Zealand, and dancing at a baseball game in Japan.

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