This dog-like robot is a breakthrough in AI technology.
As if creating a dog-like robot does not suffice, Boston Dynamics has made improvements to the fascinating AI robot. The SpotMini already has the ability to function for 90 minutes on a single charge, and boasts the same mobility as Spot—a bigger version of the dog-like robot.
“SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home,” said the Boston Dynamics site.
The updated SpotMini indicates we are not far off from an AI technology centered world. A major difference is that the newest version of the dog-like robot can open doors and pick up objects with its operational arm. In order for this new function to have optimal navigation and mobile manipulation, Boston Dynamics had to markedly improve the perception sensors of the SpotMini. The sensors now include position/force sensors in the limbs, stereo cameras, an IMU, and depth cameras.
The State of AI
Artificial Intelligence has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, with the upgrades to the SpotMini furthering the concept of AI technology being an important part of society. While manufacturers continue espousing AI to its supply chain, the way AI technology continues to evolve points to a future where AI robots can be a part of everyday life.
Self driven vehicles and delivery robots show how useful AI robots can be for the industry, but the SpotMini dog-like robot is using AI technology in unprecedented ways. Previously, Boston Dynamics robots were able to push doors open with their stubs, but the claw featured on the SpotMini not only allows it to grip and hold a door open, but to manipulate objects in much more effective ways as well. Though it’s only on the SpotMini for now, this achievement indicates the possibility for the five-degree-of-freedom arm to be added to other models as well.
Additionally, AI technology can help humanity win battles it has long since fought.
“By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a superintelligence might help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty, and so the creation of strong AI might be the biggest event in human history,” wrote Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute.
AI Technology Concerns
Just to be clear, this is what I'm seeing when I see Spot Mini open doors. pic.twitter.com/ArIusP0BSE
— Per Axbom (@axbom) February 13, 2018
The video debut for the SpotMini made waves upon its release this week, becoming the top trending video on YouTube, with over 2,448,955 views. Garnering much attention highlighted not only how fascinating and innovative this development is for AI technology, but also the concern it elicits in many.
Despite his love of technology and innovation, one of the biggest voices to express concern is Elon Musk who theorizes that the ultimate result of fast advancing AI technology will be World War III. More specifically, he fears that—as the countries with strongest computer science will engage in a technological arms race.
Others Support The Theory
He certainly is not alone in this theory as Tegmark expressed similar concern, remarking that the dangers lie on a double-edged sword. If AI is programmed for negative purposes, such as a weapon with intent to kill, it can lead to devastating results in the wrong hands. Autonomous weapons with AI allow for mass casualties and would prove to be extremely dangerous if designed to resist being powered down. These situations are the ones that lead people to fear the possibility of losing control to AI.
Alternatively, the second scenario points to AI being programmed to achieve a beneficial goal, but using tactics that are a means to an end. Despite AI being designed with good intents, if the creator does not fully align the AI’s goals with good intentions, it could also lead to a negative outcome.
AI Safety and Security
Therein lies the biggest issue with AI, that while they may not be malevolent, they are designed to be competent and will literally achieve what is asked of them without the assurance that its methods are based on common human morality.
Tegmark stresses, however, that the fears are theoretical alone, and rather than repelling the advances in AI, they should be reason to continue research in AI safety and security. “We believe research today will help us better prepare for and prevent such potentially negative consequences in the future, thus enjoying the benefits of AI while avoiding pitfalls,” he wrote.
Tegmark goes on to dispel the most common myths about the dangers of AI to send the clear message that learning about AI is the key to ensuring it remains a benefit to society.
SpotMini Debut Triggers Robophobia
It’s no question that, whether rooted in myth or not, many fear the rise of AI technology. The SpotMini debut shed light on just how strong people oppose the idea.
While many praised the unprecedented achievement reached by Boston Dynamics, there were those who did not hesitate to express the opposite.
— Brea Grant (@breagrant) February 12, 2018
Well, we had a good run. I for one welcome our new robot overlords. https://t.co/DWQcy6vaWF
— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) February 12, 2018
Still Plenty of Value
True as it may be, this pivotal moment in AI technology history has garnered fear in many. It’s important to weigh the good with the bad. While there are those who fear AI robots that closely resemble humans and animals, there is still a lot of value in an AI robot like the SpotMini. For one, it has the potential to boost productivity by enhancing the type of menial tasks it can now take on without any human interaction. Once artificial intelligence is accessible for household use, it will have the potential to serve as an assistant of sorts in that scenario as well.
The Workforce Issue
An obvious downside is that, as AI robots continue to resemble humans, they hold higher potential to fulfill roles in the workplace that previously required humans. This leads to concerns over how the SpotMini will ultimately impact job availability. As mentioned above, another downside is the possibility of such a capable AI robot is the threat it could ultimately pose to digital and national security.
Marvelous, Just Marvelous
While the development of the SpotMini being a marvelous or frightful victory is up for debate, what remains clear is the new Boston Dynamics innovation has taken AI technology to unprecedented territory. It has the ability to handle objects with a gentleness never before seen and is forging a path to a future where, if handled correctly, AI robots will be vital contributors to an advanced and efficient society.