Nathan Kanasawe, 23, was driving in a car with his friend Kaedan Cronk on Thursday around 9:30 p.m. when the pair spotted a yellow Boston Dynamics “Spot” robot dog walking along Elm St. in Sudbury.
“We knew it was a Boston Dynamics robot, we were just surprised to see it in a place other than the States or a convention. He said he was testing it for work,” Kanasawe said.
“It was kind of freaky to see it move, and it moves realistically, like a dog. It was barking, too, when we pulled up. I didn’t get it on camera, we could hear it. It sounded like a recording.”
Kanasawe said the operator controlling the robot, who was not shown in the video, was holding a device “that kind of looked like a Nintendo Switch controller.”
“It looks very autonomous when you see it online, but when you see it (in-person), it’s heavily controlled by the person operating it,” he said.
“A lot of people thought it took pictures of us because it was flashing from the face, but I don’t think so,” he said. “I just think it was part of the robot to have that light on it, so you can see on the video camera where you’re walking.”
Boston Dynamics announced earlier this month that Spot — “the agile robot that climbs stairs and traverses rough terrain with ease” — was now available for commercial sale in Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom on top of their launch market of the United States in Sept. 2019.
In a tweet Sunday, the Massachusetts-based company confirmed the Spot robot dog in the video was out “for an evening stroll, who is one of our commercial customers.”
Boston Dynamics — who was once owned by Google under X Development but sold to Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group in 2017, said architecture firm Foster + Partners use their Spot robots to enable real-time construction monitoring of their Battersea Power Station project in London, U.K.
Quebec-based construction firm Pomerleau apparently saved 20 hours of work per week by automating the capture of some 5,000 images weekly on a 500,000 square foot building project.
“Designed to go where other robots can’t go and to perform a broad number of tasks, Spot can be used to automate documentation of construction progress, monitor remote or hazardous environments, and provide situational awareness in remote settings. The robot can be reconfigured for various use cases, with a modular platform that is customizable. Spot can be outfitted with a number of accessories known as payloads to increase efficiency and greatly reduce safety risks in the workplace,” the company said.
According to media reports in May, the robot dogs were seen in Singapore parks to help enforce social distancing.
“For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”
Premier Doug Ford’s media relations director Ivana Yelich declined comment whether the province would consider a similar deployment of these robots.
Mayor John Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said Boston Dynamics robots aren’t something the city is considering at this time.
“The vast majority of Toronto residents are doing the right thing and following public health advice and we continue to urge everyone to keep doing the right thing to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
The city is instead opting for “plain and simple,” which includes measures such as washing your hands, wearing a mask, avoiding close contact and crowd scenes, staying within your own household and staying home if sick.
He also wants to clarify that the person saying “I love you” to the robot was his friend, not him.
Many of the comments suggest seeing these robots in real life is akin to Black Mirror’s “Metalhead” episode, which featured similar-looking robot dogs that hunted humans.
“I had some people say that the video is fake and that it’s computer-generated. I said, ‘You don’t know me. I’m not that talented,’” he said.
“I don’t think they’re bad or going to take over the world, because it’s pretty impossible, even right now, to develop an AI that thinks for itself. I don’t think a robot that is handmade could develop a consciousness.”
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Boston Dynamics, Robot, Greater Sudbury
World news – GB – ‘KIND OF FREAKY’: Boston Dynamics robot dog spotted in Sudbury