Art installation showcases robo-dog paintball rampage; Boston Dynamics condemns use of tech
A provocative art installation showcased the potential violent use of advanced robotics by arming a robot dog with a paintball gun and gave the public free control—and Boston Dynamics is not happy about it.
The American tech company, which produces the said advanced quadruped robots called Spot, condemned the said project for its “provocative use” of its technology via a statement released on Feb. 20.
“Today we learned that an art group is planning a spectacle to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot, Spot. To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm, or intimidation,” the company stressed.
“Our mission is to create and deliver surprisingly capable robots that inspire, delight [and] positively impact society,” it added.
Boston Dynamics explained that they “take great care to make sure our customers intend to use our robots for legal uses” and that they cross-check purchases against the United States’ denied persons and entities list.
They also pointed out that in their terms and conditions of sale, their products cannot be used against the law and should not be used to harm or intimidate people and animals.
MSCHF, the art group responsible for the online art installation called “Spot’s Rampage,” allowed netizens to remotely control Spot through their own phones while livestreaming it yesterday, Feb. 24.
Users were randomly chosen to control the robot for two minutes each. They also controlled the .68-caliber paintball gun mounted on top of the robot, which was placed inside a small “art gallery” with lots of random stuff as potential targets.
MSCHF, known for creating viral stunts and products, noted that they purchased their Spot for $74,500 (around P3.6 million).
The said art installation was seemingly set up as a social commentary on how these advanced robots can be weaponized in the future, against its creators’ intended purpose.
Under the FAQs on spotsrampage.com, the art group answered the question “Will there be a loser?” with quite a grim take: “The human race, when remote-operated dogs of war become commonplace.”
“As these war dogs become fixtures of militaries and militarized police we will all learn a new meaning of fear: an oppressor who can pull the trigger without even needing to be physically present,” MSCHF added.
“Good Boy, Spot! Everyone in this world takes one look at cute little Spot and knows: this thing will definitely be used by police and the military to murder people. And what do police departments have? Strong unions! Spot is employee of the month. You never need to union bust a robot – but a robot can union bust you,” MSCHF further quipped in the project’s manifesto.
MSCHF also revealed that they talked about Boston Dynamics about the idea, which the tech company hated.
“They said they would give us another TWO Spots for FREE if we took the gun off. That just made us want to do this even more and if our Spot stops working just know they have a backdoor override built into each and every one of these little robots,” MSCHF said.
In Boston Dynamics’ statement, they said that they recognize that “provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives.”
“This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot and how it is being used to benefit our daily lives,” the tech company stressed. /ra
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