A Google-owned robotics firm has created a two-wheeled, four-legged hybrid robot that even its creator called “nightmare-inducing.”
As much as people would like to think that a dystopic, robot prominent future is still eons away, new discoveries and inventions by global robotics firms are quickly suggesting that we are only a few years away from robots becoming a major part of public life. Recent studies have shown that robots are not only slated to replace an estimated half of human workers in a variety of industries, but they are also set to take over jobs in public service, government, and the military. Indeed, it was recently reported that the U.S. is set to have more robots than humans in its military by 2025. Yet, the latest development in the world robotics – courtesy of Google-owned robotics firm Boston Dynamics – has even the firms’ founder calling its newest prototype “nightmare-inducing.”
Boston Dynamics’ latest robot, known as Handle, is a two-wheeled, four-legged “hybrid” robot that can either run on all fours or stand up vertically and roll around at speeds in excess of nine miles per hour. This model represents a hybridization of different mobility styles seen in previous creations from the robotics firm such as BigDog and Spot. “Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build,” a Boston Dynamics spokesperson told the Guardian, “but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle can have the best of both worlds.”
Though Boston Dynamics now speaks glowingly about its latest prototype, it wasn’t always that way. When footage of Handle leaked at an investor presentation of Boston Dynamics, founder Marc Raibert commented that “this is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot.” Alex Hern of the Guardian expressed similar views, comparing Handle to the “Terminator riding on a hoverboard.” Concern over Handle and other tensions have reportedly led Google to consider selling its stake in Boston Dynamics. After footage of previous prototypes was posted to YouTube, Google tried to distance itself from Boston Dynamics’ products, telling Bloomberg News that such technology could be “terrifying.”
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