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Two of Google's Most Famous Dogs Really Don't Get Along

Boston Dynamics' dog Spot meets Andy Rubin's dog Alex

2 min read
Two of Google's Most Famous Dogs Really Don't Get Along
Boston Dynamics' dog Spot meets Andy Rubin's dog Cosmo.
Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

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.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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