One day in the future, when an engineer discovers a robot has become self aware, there is a good chance that technician will be working at Boston Dynamics. The robotics and engineering company works with various government agencies such as DARPA, the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and corporations like Sony. Using sensor-based controls and computation, Boston Dynamics’s experimental robots mimic the capabilities of complex organisms, exhibiting remarkable agility, dexterity and speed.
If you are a robot watcher like I am, Boston Dynamics’s creations are startling in their ability to conjure both utopian possibilities and surreal nightmares. Robots like these could have powerful applications navigating hostile terrains like Mars, or become mindless weapons of war.
Boston Dynamics’ latest creation is Handle, a research robot with 10 actuated joints which resembles a bucking horse. Handle stands 6.5 ft tall with the ability to retract and extend its legs. The robot has uncanny balance, travels at 9 mph and is able to jump 4 feet vertically into the air, and lift 100 pounds. Handle can operate both electric and hydraulic actuators and has a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge.
Despite Handle’s ability to travel quickly on a flat surface, Boston Dynamics’s quadruped robot The Big Dog, is actually more complex. The Big Dog can navigate rougher terrain and regain balance after being kicked.
Watching these machines in action, you might wonder… will robots mirror our highest aspirations or act out our darkest fears?
Time will tell.