Robot Asks 'Do You Love Me, Now That I Can Dance?'

Boston Dynamics' robots get down and boogie.

Two robots dancing

Boston Dynamics

The walking, parkouring, and dancing robots made by Boston Dynamics have been darlings of the internet for years, as they danced from MIT labs to Google to Softbank and most recently Hyundai, while owners tried to figure out how to get them off the dance floor and into the factory or warehouse. Colleague Michael Graham Richard showed the family of robots doing all kinds of things a few years ago, but this new video that starts off with two Atlas robots is just amazing:

Michael explained what Atlas was supposed to do besides these slick moves:

"It’s designed to assist emergency responders in search-and-rescue operations, performing tasks such as shutting off valves, opening doors, and operating powered equipment in environments where humans cannot survive. The U.S. Department of Defense, which provides funding for Atlas, said that it had no interest in using it for offensive or defensive tasks."

But Atlas has never really been out of the lab. In fact, very few of Boston Dynamics robots have been used for work instead of owning YouTube. As one critic told the Verge, “They were on the government dole then on the Google dole. They had no real mission: just be awesome! But they’re already awesome."

Spot the robot
Spot the robot.

Boston Dynamics

But after they were bought by Japanese investor Softbank in 2017, they had to go out and get a real job, and Spot, who also dances in the video is the first commercial offering. There are about 400 of them out in the field now; you can buy one for $75,000 and use it as a platform for many different functions, from checking for gas leaks to working for bomb squads, although that did not work out too well. But with that robotic arm option, it looks like it might be able to bring you coffee.

Handle
Handle the Robot.

Boston Dynamics

The last robot to join the dance party was Handle, which looked less impressive because of its use of wheels instead of legs. But it is designed for the flat concrete warehouse floor, and has a pneumatic suction hand on its long arm so that can go to work for the likes of Amazon. Now that it has been sold to a real manufacturing company, we can probably expect Hyundai to pony up the money to make real working, instead of dancing, robots.

There is a long and very interesting interview with Michael Patrick Perry, VP of Business Development for Boston Dynamics, which you can read at IEEE Spectrum.