You may recognize one of the dogs in this picture: we’re pretty sure it’s Andy Rubin’s dog,
Alex Cosmo [we’ve just been notified that the dog’s name is in fact Cosmo, and Cosmo not only “contributes to most big decisions at Playground” but also serves as its head of security]. Andy Rubin is the co-founder of Android, and for about a year, he managed the robotics program at Google (now known as Alphabet). More recently, he’s been running a hardware incubator called Playground, which has enough clout to summon up another robotic dog with Google ties: Boston Dynamics’ Spot.
Cosmo and Spot do not get along.
The video was posted by Steve Jurvetson, a partner at VC firm DFJ. “I was told that this is the only Spot (their latest robot) in civilian hands,” Jurvetson told IEEE Spectrum. (Arguably, the new ATLAS is Boston Dynamics’ latest robot.) Jurvetson was really impressed by the robot’s “lifelike movement.” He added: “And the tradition of the uncanny valley continues . . . To the un-canine valley!”
As for Spot, we know that the U.S. Marines were using it as a recon robot late last year but the future of that program is unclear, according to a report from Military.com:
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn't have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it's completely controller-driven.”
For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.
For the life of me I don’t know how anyone can not be interested in Spot. Here’s one more video from Jurvetson; it’s a lot of fun to see the robot just being played with in a completely unstructured way:
Updated 2/29/16 9:20 pm ET: Added comments from Steve Jurvetson. Updated 3/1/16 2 pm ET: Corrected name of Andy Rubin’s dog. Erico Guizzo contributed reporting.