Sometimes, the robotic dog known as SpotMini is cute. Sometimes, its canine gait and seemingly sentient inquisitiveness make it look like an endearing A.I. extension of humanity’s best friend. This is so, so not one of those times.
Boston Dynamics, the creators of SpotMini and other animal-like robots, released a new video Monday afternoon, and it’s straight out of Jurassic Park. One of the SpotMini robots is walking through the lab before it comes across a door that it can’t open. The robot peers up for a moment, before another SpotMini — one equipped with a robot claw for just such situations — shows up to quite literally lend a hand to the situation.
Let’s not understate the technical brilliance on display here. The second SpotMini is especially remarkable in how its arm deploys, with both the robot’s body and its arm repositioning to get the optimal grip on the door. And once the robot pulls the door just enough to get it ajar, it uses its claw to push it the rest of the way, clearing the path for both it and the other SpotMini to make their way through. The finesse of the operation and the various methods the robot uses to open the door as quickly and efficiently as possible is a testament to the robotics brilliance of Boston Dynamics.
All that said, come on. There’s only one possible reaction to SpotMini opening a door like this, and it’s to think back to a very particular scene from Jurassic Park.
When talking about an emerging intelligence like a robotic dog, the comparison to go for probably isn’t the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. But a SpotMini had to open a door, and here we are.
The fact it can do this at all is also a testament to how Boston Dynamics’s plans for SpotMini and its others robots continue to evolve. As the company explains on its site, the original purpose of its lab was to design robots that moved and behaved like animals. It has since added a humanoid robot called Atlas to its menagerie, but this is still mostly the place that makes robot animals.
This door-opening maneuver from SpotMini is an example of an animal-like robot displaying a more human motion, as the robots gradually build up skills that might have eluded them if the company had begun just with humanoid models.
Whether SpotMini can in fact be defeated by preteens with improbably impressive gymnastics skills is, like with Jurassic Park, a question we must leave for the sequel.
Maybe one day, SpotMini will replace your dog: