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The Future With Robots: Boston Dynamics' Vision

Hans Lee (CTO)
Hans Lee (CTO) | 2 min read
Oct 03, 2019 |

Industry Talks

In the past, commercial advertising for robotics has been largely limited to iRobot’s autonomous vacuum cleaner, better known as the Roomba. Boston Dynamics’ commercial launch of Spot (previously SpotMini) represents a significant step forward for the robotics industry and paints a new picture of the future of human-robot collaboration.

Spot TV Ad

Spot's first TV ad.

Instead of a more traditional tech product walkthrough, Boston Dynamics focuses on what will resonate with human operators of their robots. They could have shown off Spot’s impressive back-flipping abilities. Instead, they made the commercial about your new helper.

 

Everyone Will Know How To Code

A subtle theme throughout the ad is the idea that jobs that are currently non-technical will soon involve programming and management of complex devices and systems. The ad sums this up in a single line: `SPOT.GO()`.

Over the past decades, humans have created technology and tools that have made it infinitely easier to communicate and collaborate with each other. In the near future, we’ll be working side-by-side with robots, and code will be our shared means of communication.

Spot Programming

Today everyone knows basic math. In the next generation, everyone will know how to code.

 

Robots Will Support Humans

We’ve seen many of our customers set out with the goal of fully automating a task currently done by a human. They often realize that enabling a human to be a manager of robots, rather than having a robot fully replace the human, is ultimately more cost effective and has a higher likelihood of success.

This realization requires a shift in thinking and a new approach to job training. In the near future, everyone will be a manager of something, whether of a human or robot team. Robots will become a means of extending and amplifying each person’s individual capabilities. Our belief at Freedom is that the growing need for humans to program, command, and manage robots will increase the number of good jobs available while improving overall efficiency and productivity.

Robots Supports Humans

Rather than being limited to the assembly line, everyday work will be augmented by robots.

 

Humans Will Support Robots

As robots begin to solve more complex problems, they will continue to rely on humans to complete tasks they are unable to perform. For many applications, the use of robots without human intervention is years away. By having humans in the loop, tasks that are currently impossible for robots, like swapping battery packs, can be performed efficiently with minimal cost.

The underlying message of the ad is clear: robots still need human managers to enable them to succeed. “Real AI” and full robot autonomy in complex environments will take time to become a reality, and humans will continue to play a vital role in robot operations for the foreseeable future.

Humans Support Robots

Humans will also support robots with tasks robots cannot complete.

 

Robots Do The Dangerous Jobs

Many dangerous jobs are repetitive and routine - until something goes wrong. By identifying these jobs and tackling them first, we can reduce risk and create safer working environments for humans.

Boston Dynamics started off with a focus on military applications, where the advantages of using robots in extreme environments and hazardous situations are clear. However, even common tasks like monitoring power lines or inspecting construction sites have the potential to be dangerous. In these cases, robots can take on the risk.

Robots do the dangerous jobs

Many dangerous jobs can be made routine when a robot takes on the risk.

 

Creating The Future

While it will take time for the future Boston Dynamics shows to becomes commonplace, one of the key driving forces for getting there is shaping people’s perception of what that future will look like - in the past, popular media like Star Trek defined tablets, smart phones, voice activated systems, and even spacecraft designs.

A better future is possible when humans and robots work together, and Boston Dynamics has shown us what this future might look like. By shifting from science fiction to a combination of near-future scenarios with real robots, we are moving one step closer to realizing the possibilities that people have been envisioning for decades.

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robotics companies to build, operate, and scale robots and robotic fleets.