Tag: Boston Dynamics

Handle with care

Thursday, 2 March, 2017 0 Comments

Watch out Segway tour guides, ballet dancers and parkour runners, Handle is coming for your job. Handle is the latest research robot from Boston Dynamics and the focus is on simplicity and efficiency: “Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds,” say the makers, who add that Handle has a range of 15 miles on one battery charge. Impressive. Cautionary.

AlphaGo was yesterday, Boston Dynamics is today

Friday, 18 March, 2016 0 Comments

How fickle these times are. How quickly glory fades and how rapidly doubt steps into its shoes. For example: Google was being deluged with praise last week after AlphaGo won the DeepMind Challenge against the champion Lee Sedol. Suddenly, the scary concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was, well, less scary and Google got lots of love. How short our attention span is, however.

Yesterday, Bloomberg rattled the rosy future with the headline, “Google Puts Boston Dynamics Up for Sale in Robotics Retreat.” The talk on the street was of the inability of Boston Dynamics to produce marketable robots anytime soon. Hence the reported “For Sale” sign. But there’s another aspect to the story, one which relates to the scary AI scenario. Boston Dynamics posted a humanoid robotics video on YouTube last month that made many people uneasy and the mother company, Alphabet, sensing another Google Glass moment, perhaps, began to count the negative publicity cost. Bloomberg quoted from e-mails published on an internal online forum that were visible to all Google employees:

“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X. Hohne asked her colleagues to “distance X from this video,” and wrote, “we don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google.”

After the match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, the scoreline read: Machines, 4, Humanity, 1. With Google’s retreat from robots, some would says it’s now Machines, 4, Humanity, 2. But that will probably change next week. This is a fast-paced game and the job-eating robots are advancing, despite the headlines.

Atlas will end the misery of delivering pizza

Thursday, 25 February, 2016 0 Comments

In Greek mythology, Zeus ordered Atlas to stand at the western edge of the Earth and hold up The Heavens on his shoulders for ever. It’s a rotten job, but someone’s got to do it, eh? The same goes for delivering pizza on a day like today, when the streets are covered with snow and the guys at Joey’s have to put on their winter gear and trudge through the slushy streets bearing that delightful Pizza Azzurri (salami, mozzarella and tomato) or that delicious Pizza Waikiki (pineapple, ham and cheese). Luckily for them, or perhaps not, Atlas will put an end to that slog.

Atlas is a product of Boston Dynamics, which is owned by Alphabet, and the company released a video yesterday of its “baby”, in which it picks up boxes, walks through the snow and gets back up after being knocked down. A day in the life of the pizza delivery guy, in other words. The bigger picture, of course, is that Atlas signals the end of physical labour as we know it. We’ll see a dramatic increase in industry efficiency as a result of robotics, but the loss of low-skilled jobs will be devastating and the consequences for society will be dramatic.

This just in: Pizza Delivery Driver Kidnapped and Robbed. “Police say a man and a woman approached the driver and forced him at gunpoint to get into their car. They then drove the driver to an ATM where they withdrew money from his bank account, and stole other items from him.” Cannot see that happening to Atlas. Meanwhile, the snow continues to fall outside. Pizza for supper, perhaps.


Robots running and walking and driving

Thursday, 5 June, 2014 0 Comments

Superb reporting by Will Knight for Technology Review on how Boston Dynamics is building robots that walk and run like living creatures. The article is enhanced with some cool web effects. Snippet:

“DARPA’s vision is for rescue robots to operate this way, with humans providing guidance and assistance but the robots functioning autonomously when needed, such as when a communications link fails. But if robots are ever to perform the kinds of tasks that some envision — such as helping the elderly in the home — they will need to have the ability to work with even greater autonomy.”

Meanwhile, SoftBank is reported to be developing human-like robots which it will use to staff its cellphone stores. All of these developments are signs from the near future.

Signs from the near future