Does This Robot Freak You Out? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture Something like Atlas, Spot and Handle will likely inhabit the world we're now building — and their weirdness will be just commonplace, says astrophysicist Adam Frank.
NPR logo Does This Robot Freak You Out?

Does This Robot Freak You Out?

Just before Thanksgiving, the Internet lit up with the remarkable video of Boston Dynamics' robot Atlas doing a backflip.

It was pretty amazing to see a humanoid-shaped machine doing things that would be hard for most humans. Given all the interest in Atlas, I thought it was a good time to remind everyone about the other non-humanoid robots Boston Dynamics is building. These are the ones that have the "big freaky" factor.

Perhaps it's the strange gait of Spot the robot dog or the headless SpotMini (seen in this video) or the nothing-like-that-exists balance of Handle.

YouTube

In all cases, they live in their own kind of uncanny valley.

The thing to remember is that something like these machines will likely inhabit the world we're now building. In fact, it may be that a lot of these machines will be inhabiting our spaces. Eventually, I suppose, we will cross the uncanny valley and their weirdness will be just commonplace.

I hope I will be around to see it — I think.


Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and author of the upcoming book Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth. His scientific studies are funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Education. You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4