In the Black Mirror episode “Metalhead,” a highly-advanced, autonomous robo-dog terrifies an innocent woman. We never learn exactly why it’s trying to murder every human in its path. But considering we’ve now seen the likes of Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini or Atlas marching and jogging around in real life, it’s become creepier (and more resonant) than ever.
And they’re becoming very capable — even an evil engineer with a leash can’t hold them back. Now, Boston Dynamics announced that it’ll start selling its good boy SpotMini as soon as next year. The CEO made the announcement on stage at TechCrunch’s TC Sessions: Robotics event at UC Berkeley. But should we be terrified?
SpotMini embodies some of Boston Dynamics’ most advanced robot technologies: they’re quiet, weigh only 66 pounds, and a single charge can have one hopping around and opening doors for 90 minutes straight.
And it’s come a long way. It perceives its surroundings using a sophisticated 3D vision system, and can even make its own way through a warehouse, without user input. With the help of an adorable (or terrifying?) neck attachment, SpotMini can grab the newspaper for you, play fetch, and generally be a really good boy, too.
But in the wrong hands, SpotMini could be put to much darker uses as well (if you’re not familiar with those YouTube videos where people duct-tape kitchen knives to the tops of Roombas, trust us, you should be).
Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert discussed possible applications on stage at the TechCrunch event. “I think people think that it’s easy to get around with wheeled [robots], but that’s really not the case. Every place you go has some obstacle that wheeled things struggle with,” like going up and down stairs for search-and-rescue missions. “We think SpotMini can go to a much larger fraction of places.”
Unsurprisingly, even when prompted by TechCrunch moderator and Editor Brian Heater, there was no mention of specific security industry applications. After all, an ‘accessibility aid for the impaired’ sells a lot better, than a ‘walking death machine, with a machine gun mounted to its back.