From the Sci-Fi realm to real life: robots are coming… and it ain’t half bad
Well, it looks like these ads and movies purporting to depict our future – and getting a lot of flak and mocking in response – may have finally got a cause for a bit of “told you so”. Granted, it’s not the flying cars (yet), but the giant human-like robots are not that far behind in terms of being popular as a sci-fi topic and are just as much of a fixture when it comes to futuristic predictions.
And no, the robots in question, created by Boston Dynamics in cooperation with IBM, are not giant (or even all that big, for that matter), nor are they human-like: this model is actually a robotic dog (whose name – Spot, to wit – strangely coincides with that of the cat belonging to one famous sci-fi android). Moreover, it’s not nearly scary or military-geared (like it’s a bad thing). But the bottom line is, when this robotic Spot will come out to the streets, it has all the chances in the world to prove itself immeasurably useful.
Because those unmanned four-legged machines are going to check the US’ power grid sites for safety and reliability of the network maintenance or / and construction process, looking for any potential problems before those may arise. The Boston Dynamics’ newly upgraded hardware will now be boosted by IBM’s cloud-based AI “brains”, and the first areas covered by the pilot are going to be Massachusetts and New York, no less. (No wonder. Like it’s the first time when New York gets all the best stuff ahead of others. Now they are the first place to get tireless, immaculately precise and, most likely, unbribable construction inspectors. One can counter that, on the other hand, those can be hacked. But firstly, nobody’s perfect; secondly, breaching into the IBM cloud system is notably more difficult than slipping some money to somebody; and thirdly, we’re yet to hear about any anti-corruption software installed in any human inspectors of… pretty much anything).
Now, admittedly, that’ not the first attempt to use these robotic helpers to lighten the load for human professionals. And the previous endeavour didn’t prove all that successful either. Speaking of military use, the first IMB / Boston Dynamic clients as far as the Spot model is concerned, were the police (including that of the New York area, again). But the failure in question, resulting in the project falling through and the agreement between the makers and the departments being nullified, certainly doesn’t lay at Spot’s robotic feet. It was moral (which, in this case, a polite way of saying “political”) reasons, not technical, that prevented that previous contract from transpiring. It was a Senator and the city Mayor (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bill de Blasio, respectively) who spoke against the use of Spots for policing purposes, not the quality controllers (who reportedly didn’t find a smidgen of fault with the robots’ working process or efficiency).
And since it’s hard to find anything unethical or morally questionable about data analysis per se (which the robo-dogs will be doing at the aforementioned sites) or the workers’ protection and increase of the production levels (to which ends the said analysis will be made), there is a reason to at least cautiously believe that this time the smart and nimble IBM / BD creations will be put to good use after all. All (so far) 500 of them.
Especially considering that this particular animal is out of the proverbial bag already anyway. The building field is increasingly using the robotic helpers not just for their brawn, so to speak, but for the above-said analysis as well, often relying on the artificial intelligence even for a certain level of the decision making. And, judging by these no longer all that futuristic smart devices getting more and more popular at the production plants and storage depots, they overall don’t give the businesses that use them any reason to regret their choice. And, for that matter, the National Grid has recently become one of such businesses, equipping their employees with moving robots.
So if it is already being done, why not turn to the best? The IBM and Boston Dynamics are names that speak for themselves, and the robot good and clever enough to help with the police work can’t be stupid or shabby enough to miss the literally vital clues in construction, storage manning or factory lines’ security. Particularly taking into account that they are being constantly perfected and improved: just recently Skip Snyder, IBM’s operations leader, informed the media about some new sensors incorporated in these robo-dogs to up their data processing speed and widen the range of potential dangers being, well, Spot-ted (sorry, but this one was truly irresistible).
And once these early glimpses of the future prove their worth in their protective capacity even to the harshest of sceptics and reclaim their good name from the political game tarnish, who knows what else they will prove capable of… maybe, even carrying some flying cars won’t be out of reach.
Spot Launch [Video]
Video uploaded by Boston Dynamics on September 24, 2019