As a general rule, I’ve always loved robots –- I’ve always thought they’re fascinating, and downright cool. Granted, most of that love springs from robots as depicted in fiction (yay, Asimov!), but I’ve also, always been fascinated by advancements in real-world robotics.
However, occasionally I run across something that really makes me pause in declaring my universal love of robots.
Apparently, the U.S. military is currently looking for designs and bids on robots that can be used to chase down "uncooperative human subjects," and also perform crowd control. One company, Boston Dynamics, has stepped up to the challenge and is working to produce a robot that fits the bill. Their current prototype is called BigDog, and so far it appears to be a rather likely entry. It’s also downright ... well ... CREEPY. It isn't something from Robocop, or THX-1138, or Magnus Robot Fighter. It's something far less anthropomorphic, and yet it's not something that automatically screams, "Hey, I'm just a machine!"
BigDog is a hydraulic quadruped robot that can carry up to 340 lbs. It’s also capable of recovering its balance from sliding on ice or snow, or from attempts to knock it over. It’s also very noisy –- it sounds like a high-powered chainsaw (or a giant fly). Here is company video of the thing:
Some of the footage is actually kinda funny, but ... Sure, I like robots, but I think if I found myself suddenly being chased down by this creepy thing, I’d panic -- and I don’t think I’d be alone in reacting that way. If the military is looking for robots to perform crowd control, they might want to look into investing in something far less creepy. Crowd panic does not equal crowd control.