That was the goal, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert says in a new interview with the AP, which you will find embedded below. Contrary to what was said online, the three-minute dance video included no computer-generated imagery and no editing tricks: it was a dance in the truest sense of the word. The video itself was shot over two days.
For these two days of shooting, which eventually translated into a three-minute viral video (on YouTube, it currently sits at nearly 27 million views), the team at Boston Dynamics had to work hard for almost one year and a half. The company’s robots were good at a variety of things before, but one thing they did not have was the fluidity of motion specific to humans when dancing. They also wanted the robots to be able to express “joy” during the act, Raibert explains.
This meant developing better motion-programming tools that would eventually let the robots reconcile balancing, bouncing, and doing a performance at the same time. It also meant upgrading the robots halfway through to make them stronger and more energetic.
It was a challenging task and, some say, perhaps a useless one if you consider it was carried out in order to make a “silly” dance video. But this is more than just about entertaining with virals: this is about showing what robotics can achieve and about getting more people interested in robots.
“You know, our job is to try and stretch the boundaries of what robots can do, both in terms of the outer research boundary, but also in terms of practical applications,” Raibert says. “And I think when people see the new things that robots can do, it excites them.”
The dance video is also available below, in case you missed it the first time.