If you haven’t seen the viral video of the Boston Dynamics dog-like robot circulating over the past couple of weeks, then where have you been? While the video in question seems relatively playful, we can’t help but be a little scared. However, this isn’t the first time the Boston Dynamic Robots have gone viral. There are numerous videos of many different types of robots demonstrating an impressive range of mobility and capabilities. As you could have probably guessed, Boston Dynamics has worked with the US military, but could this mean the future of robot warfare is closer than we think? Read on to discover more about these fascinating machines and their creators.
Alongside the dog-like robots such as the SpotMini and BigDog, the company also make robots that walk on two legs. This may lead you to believe they are less mobile than their four-legged counterparts. If that’s the case, we’re afraid you’re wrong. Named Atlas, this 6ft robot cannot only walk near perfectly, but it can also run! As if a running robot wasn't terrifying enough, Atlas can also jump onto and over objects. But it doesn't end there, not only does it walk, run and jump, it can also do backflips. You read that right - backflips. But what if it doesn’t stick the landing or trips when chasing you? Well, guess what? Atlas will just pick itself back up again. This is a credit to Boston Dynamics machines having an impressive range of mobility, and movements that once seemed near impossible for robots are now being performed with astonishing precision.
Boston Dynamics were founded in 1992 and released their first robot in 2005. Named BigDog, it was made in conjunction with numerous collaborators and was more notably funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA – an agency in the United States responsible for developing emerging military technologies. So, in 2005 they had developed arguably one of the most mobile robots to date and have since gone on to make them even more mobile in the space of 11 years, releasing the two-legged, running and backflipping Atlas in 2016. This, of course, makes you wonder what we can expect in the near future. To put that into perspective in comparison to other technological advancements: the first colour television was developed in the 1960s, roughly 40 years after the black and white TV. Now, comparing Boston Dynamics’ robotic developments to the first colour television is silly. However, the fact that they have gone from their already impressive BigDog to Atlas in the space of just 11 years – you can’t help but appreciate how far they have come in such a short space of time, or even fear what’s to come next!
As previously noted, Boston Dynamics developed BigDog in 2005, and the project was funded by DARPA. The original purpose of this robot was to work like a pack mule alongside soldiers in place of vehicles where terrain became too rough. Able to carry an impressive 150kg of weight, while walking at 4mph through rough terrains, the project was unfortunately postponed due to the amount of noise the four-legged robot produced, fearing it would compromise the soldier’s location. It’s probably also necessary to acknowledge that although Boston Dynamics work alongside the military, all of their robots thus far are centred around aiding humans, opposed to harming them. So, at least for now, let's assume that Boston Dynamics aren’t going to create a robot army that will end the human race, and instead admire their robots dancing to pop music and performing sick backflips.