We often joke about the mechanical uprising of intelligent electronics, but behind the laughter is a bit of nervousness. Should the sci-fi scenario ever come to fruition, humans are royally screwed. Proof of this exists in spades at Boston Dynamics. Last week the robotics firm demonstrated a pair of SpotMini robots escaping captivity by twisting a door handle and nudging it open. Now in a new demonstration, the same robotic canine is shown opening the door once again, only this time while being knocked around and generally abused by its human handler.
Word of caution before you hit the play button—giving how lifelike these robots look and act, it is an uncomfortable scene to see a human getting physical with one as it tries to open a door and exit the room. Boston Dynamics acknowledges this in the video's description, pointing out that this type of testing does not actually "irritate or harm" the mechanical canine, even if our brains are wired to think otherwise. And in fact this sort of thing is beneficial in the grand scheme of things.
"The ability to tolerate and respond automatically to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot," Boston Dynamics says.
While it looks vicious to see the handler violently pull the 'tail' of MiniSpot to the point where a part of the hind section falls off, it actually helps the software learn how to respond to unexpected events. The way the robot is designed, it uses cameras to survey the landscape and find the door handle. Software provides locomotion and balance to the autonomous robot, and adjusts the behavior of the robot when things get off track.
Boston Dynamics did not get into actual use case scenarios, but if we are to think of our own, imagine a modified version of this walking into a building to disarm a bomb. It wouldn't be very useful if it could be easily knocked over or otherwise get off track, hence this sort of seemingly abusive testing.
That's the theory, anyway, The moment these things get teeth and the ability to bark, we're out.