Your Robot Future

Two versions for you. One a dystopian robot beehive and the other, a thin veneer of joyful play hiding a powerful and increasingly sophisticated machine.

Exhibit One the Ocado beehive

Robots used by the UK online-grocer Ocado zip back and forth across “the grid” delivering good to human packers who box everything up for shipment to the customers. Each robot is about the size of a washing machine and are optimized to run back and forth at great speed, missing each other by the thinnest of margins. Of course, when they don’t which causes all sorts of problems.

Exhibit Two Boston Dynamics dancers

Two videos, the first from January where the Boston Dynamics Atlas machines run thru a number of dance moves to the 1962 hit Do You Love Me? It’s a slick PR stunt to make these machines more lovable but it also had the practical benefit of pushing the team to improve their robot.

Now that Boston Dynamics is part of Hyundai, they have been put to use dancing to the likes of K-Pop boy band BTS. Here’s their most recent video where a group of Spot robots are dancing in unison.

Again, these robots can do much more than just dance. As Google Image search queries have, over time, taught the algorithm what a cat or dog looks like – teaching Atlas and Spot to dance and move with grace will help it integrate seamlessly with humans further down the road.

Are we witnessing the first steps towards Westworld?

Robots copy Nature

As soon as Google announced it was acquiring the scary mechanical cheetah company Boston Dynamics, twitter exploded into a series of snarky comments about self-aware robots from a company that knows everything about you chasing after you to watch more YouTube.

Say what you will, Boston Dynamic is a fascinating company. I’ve marveled at BD’s robotics and have watched all the videos as they came out (Boing Boing has a nice collection of them) but David Pogue’s Making Stuff series on Nova has a segment which goes into a bit more detail along with an interview with the company’s founder.

The entire episode is fascinating but the Boston Dynamics segment starts at 19:30.

Other projects mentioned in the video include Festo’s Bionic Innovations

and UPenn’s GRASP labs research on swarming nanobots.