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Paintball-Gun Shooting Spot Is No Way to Put the Robot Dog to Use

Boston Dynamics’ Spot isn’t the only robot on their lineup, but it’s arguably the one to get the most headlines. That’s mainly because it looks like a headless dog, and it’s often described as “creepy.”
Boston Dynamics puts art collective MSCHF on blast for their use of the robot dog Spot 10 photos
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That’s exactly what a recent art installation counted on. Put together by art collective MSCHF (which stands for “mischief”), it saw Spot fitted with a paintball gun, which random people online could shoot, via remote operation, at the objects inside a room in NYC.

It was a messy affair that lasted a few hours, often resulting in Spot falling down on the wet floor, and it was called Spot’s Rampage. MSCHF streamed it online, allowing random viewers the possibility to operate the robot remotely via a phone app. There was no waitlist, no charge, and no other process to consider other than to sign up and make sure you were online when the operators changed. If you were lucky, you could be picked.

Bijan Stephen of The Verge was one of the lucky ones, and he compares the experience to that of playing a video game. He shot the paintball gun until Spot collapsed on the floor and could no longer get up. MSCHF had to send someone inside the room to pick it up.

In the FAQs, MSCHF explained the art installation in a way that left little doubt as to the purpose behind it: “When killer robots come to America they will be wrapped in fur, carrying a ball. Spot is Rob Rhinehart’s ideal pet: it never s**ts. Good Boy, Spot! Everyone in this world takes one look at cute little Spot and knows: this thing will definitely be used by police and the military to murder people. And what do police departments have? Strong unions! Spot is employee of the month.”

The art collective also says that they were in contact with maker Boston Dynamics, which was reluctant about the whole thing – and then downright negative about it when they learned about the paintball gun. “We talked to Boston Dynamics and they hated this idea. They said they would give us another two Spots for free if we took the gun off. That just made us want to do this even more,” the group says.

Even though the event has wrapped up and will not be replicated again, Boston Dynamics still has the tweet below pinned to their timeline. It says that they did not condone or approve of this use of Spot and highlights how instances of “provocative art” like this one will ultimately do harm. Spot was built for a variety of activities, and portraying it in the way MSCHF has is detrimental to its mission.



Editor's note: The gallery shows the new arm extension on Spot, officially introduced in January 2021.

 
 
 
 
 

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