[Image above] Credit: Boston Dynamics, YouTube
I don’t mean to start out by inciting panic, but will robots replace humans?
Automation seems to be creeping into our daily lives. We now have driverless cars that may ultimately eliminate taxi and Uber drivers. Drones that deliver our online orders could eventually replace the UPS courier. And tablets are replacing wait staff at some restaurants.
A recent Forbes article cites research from McKinsey that says 45% of current jobs can be done by machines.
Of course, many jobs in the manufacturing sector have already been replaced by automation. But we still need humans for other jobs that machines cannot do, and I especially refer to those frustrating chatbots that large companies employ for customer service. (Who’s with me on this?!)
But Boston Dynamics, a company started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and purchased from Google last year by Japanese company SoftBank Group, already has nine robots in its fleet. Last year we reported on Handle, the two-wheeled robot that “combines the rough-terrain capability of legs with the efficiency of wheels,” according to the company’s website.
Although descriptions of each robot don’t exactly mention specific applications, a quick view of the videos gives you an idea of their capabilities. To wit:
Atlas, the humanoid-looking robot, might be the only one of the nine that could possibly replace warehouse workers.
SandFlea can leap over tall obstacles at a single bound—which might be useful for delivering things in high places.
BigDog looks like it could replace soldiers in the military and scare the enemy away without even using weapons.
WildCat is touted as the “fastest free running quadruped robot in the world.” Could it replace the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team?
Boston Dynamics’ latest robot looks more like a pet. The company describes SpotMini as a “small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home. Founder Marc Raibert mentioned in a Fortune article this past summer that the company plans to bring SpotMini to market by July 2019.
Watch the video to see how SpotMini can possibly make your life easier. Or, in the end, harder.
Credit: Boston Dynamics, YouTube
And watch how Boston Dynamics researchers test out the navigation on the new and improved version of SpotMini.
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