Monday, March 7, 2016

Atlas v.2.0

As with any other technology, robotics is in a constant state of development.

Robots are upgraded and enhanced with new capabilities or more efficient systems as new designs and techniques arise. That's what's happening with Atlas.

I've blogged about the Atlas robot numerous times. It was always impressive. It's new iteration is downright fascinating. Boston Dynamics released a video:

Atlas just walks out the door like nothin'. It goes on an unassisted hike across rugged, snowy terrain. It lifts boxes and stacks them on warehouse shelves. That last bit might not seem impressive but consider that it is a robot completing this task.

Difficult to watch is the latter part of the video. Men, whom I can only assume are part of the Boston Dynamics team, knock one of the boxes away from Atlas using a hockey stick. Atlas must then improvise. Then they use the hockey stick to knock Atlas around and eventually send him to the floor. With very human-like mechanics, Atlas picks himself up off the floor.

I say "difficult to watch" because I actually felt bad for Atlas. Its movements, its extemporaneous "thinking," its basic form, it really does appear human. I felt like I was watching a small person get bullied and abused. I'll even confess a small amount of anger towards those committing the acts, even though they by no means deserve it. I know, I know, Atlas feels nothing. It is pure machine and cannot conceive of abuse or hurt.


I believe, however, my reaction is indicative of an unseen aspect of just how advance Atlas is. Its mimicked human qualities render the possibility of a relationship. We can relate to Atlas in many of the same ways we do to other people. Sure, I know there are those who can have similar associations with their cars or motorcycles or what have you. This, I argue, is different. Atlas is more accessible to us than those other machines. To me, anyway.

I suspect this unique relationship will come more to the fore as robots become more advanced and complex. 

You better hope they don't remember being knocked around like they were in that video,

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