It’s happening, everyone. We are coming closer and closer to seeing robots malfunction in the real world, and cause real damage. A good foreshadowing of this future came recently when the art experiment, “Spot’s Rampage,” ended in disaster. The project involved internet users controlling a Boston Dynamics robot dog—and the paintball gun attached to it. The plan meant things would get messy but the experiment ended with an unexpected kind of disaster.
— CNN (@CNN) February 25, 2021
CNN reported on the interactive exhibit gone awry, which the art group, MSCHF created. Apparently the Brooklyn-based group—previously responsible for projects like an ultrasonic jammer for your Amazon Echo—cobbled together the $75,000 needed to buy one of Boston Dynamics’ quadrupedal robots. The robotics company has just put the Black Mirror bots up for sale, although there are a lot of conditions.
The exhibit, which took place on February 24, encouraged online users to take control of Spot while it was inside of a studio filled with artwork—including random statues, and Andy Warhol-style Brillo boxes—and then use the robots legs, and aftermarket paintball gun attachment, to destroy everything around it. Although the artsy exercise didn’t last long.
An hour after the interactive window opened, Spot began to collapse on itself. And while it was able to right itself several times, once it fell on its side, the rampage was over. (Incidentally, the group noted before the exhibit that Boston Dynamics has “a backdoor override built into each and every one of these little robots.”)
“It’s easy to look at these robots dance and cavort and see them as cute semi-sentient little friends,” MSCHF’s Daniel Greenberg told TechCrunch. “Still, it’s worth remembering the big versions of Spot [Big Dog] were explicitly military mules, and that their public deployments tend to be by city agencies and law enforcement,” Greenberg added.
Indeed, the Boston Dynamics bot has been used, for example, in bomb squad training exercises. The NYPD has also deployed a Spot robot to, of all things, a home invasion crime scene. The Boston-based tech company, however, said in a Twitter post that it did not approve of this usage of Spot.
“Provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives,” Boston Dynamics’ post reads. “This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot and how it is being used to benefit our daily lives,” the post adds.
Featured Image: Jackson Weimer
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