Dog-like robot that can open doors prompts fears, conversation over potential uses
Video of a dog-like robot that can open doors has people on the internet concerned about the future of technology.
Robotics company Boston Dynamics posted the video, titled “Hey Buddy, Can You Give Me a Hand?” on YouTube Monday.
In the video, which has more than five million views, the SpotMini robot walks on its four legs, then uses its crane-like neck to open a closed door.
The SpotMini is a smaller version of the larger BigDog robot, which was designed by the company for the U.S. Army. But it was eventually rejected by the military.
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The smaller robot, according to Boston Dynamic’s website, can also perform other tasks such as climb stairs. The company explains it can operate in offices, inside homes and outdoors.
It weighs about 30 kilograms and has a rechargeable battery that lasts roughly 90 minutes. It’s the quietest robot the company, which is a leader in robotics technology, has ever built.
Another video posted by the company shows all of its four-legged robots performing various tasks together — walking down a sidewalk, kneeling down, loading a dishwasher and more.
Steve Engels, an associate computer science professor at the University of Toronto, explained that the exact technology — and how revolutionary it is — is something Boston Dynamics doesn’t offer much information about.
“Not a lot of people know what technique they’re using in order to open the doors,” he said. “It makes a difference if they weren’t given any information and were just told to learn how to open doors, versus if people who created it actually built in algorithms that told it what steps it needed it to do.”
In either case, the robot’s skills prompted many social media users to question whether such technology is going too far — and veering into a scary territory.
Engels explained that making robots less intimidating is something many researchers are working on, citing his own colleagues as an example.
“Some of the people at U of T are trying to personalize robots, so people see them more as companions, people feel that they are more approachable,” he said.
The professor added that while there may be apprehension, the robots can actually have many useful purposes, specifically in three situations: when a task is too dangerous for humans, too physically strenuous, or extraordinarily repetitive.
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It could also be helpful for those with physical disabilities.
“It could help in the transportation of items,” Engels explains. “Somebody who is in a wheelchair can’t necessarily carry things, what happens if they need to carry something that’s big and bulky?”
“A lot of people who are in wheelchairs, their homes are equipped to be able to maneuver and so the major thing would be reaching heights, transferring stuff up the stairs,” he added.
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