It was just another day for Boston Dynamics
, the engineering and robotics design company that gets its jollies from pushing around
its mechanical creations. There is a method to the madness—can these piles of metal and electronics maintain (or regain) their balance when shoved around or hit with a hockey stick? That's how the testing goes, at least for the camera. But then something happened. Something utterly disturbing. On this day, the robot fought back.
Well, not really. A company called Corridor posted a humorously disturbing video on YouTube by "Bosstown Dynamics," a spoof on Boston Dynamics, as referenced above. In it, the 'engineers' are doing doing their thing, only ratcheted up a notch. The two engineers are seen tormenting what is supposed to be Atlas, billed as "the world's most dynamic humanoid." At one point, they break a glass bottle over its head. Then comes the hockey stick, a familiar tool that the real Boston Dynamics has demonstrated in the past, except this time Atlas grabs it mid-swing. Uh oh.
This occurs at around the 1min32sec mark, but it is not the end of the robotic uprising. Later on in the video, Atlas reaches its limit of being bullied and goes full Chuck Norris on the engineers. It was not the act of being shot with a gun, whipped, or sprayed in the face with paint (or mace? I'm not really sure) that set Atlas over the edge. Oh no. As it is prone to happen in real life, it was something mundane that served as the fateful straw breaking the camel's back—a game of monkey in the middle.
The engineers were playing keep-away with a box, tossing it back and forth over the robot's head. Memories of past warehouse shenanigans must have flooded Atlas's memory banks, because it snapped. Oh yes, he snapped in spectacular fashion, kicking the snide engineer holding the box in the twig in berries, then delivering a foot to the other engineer's mid section. All that was missing was the fatality, though the video ends with Atlas marching the engineers outside at gunpoint, and who knows what happened off camera.
Actually, we do know. The spoof simulation came to an end (there would be no actual Old Yeller ending). This was all staged, of course. Atlas did not really have a Skynet moment and turn against his human creators. It was not actually Atlas to begin with, or even a robot—it's revealed at the end that Corridor shot the scene in front of a green screen, with an actual flesh and blood person (we think, anyway).
The whole ordeal was choreographed, and while complete fiction, it's not hard to imagine it being a reality. Atlas does in fact exist, and it's highly advanced. That's what makes this spoof demonstration both impressive and chilling. Or maybe we just watch too many sci-fi flicks and know how this could end.