Bad Spot, bad! Pranksters mounted a paintball GUN on a Boston Dynamics' $75,000 robot dog


Forget ‘a bull in a china shop’ — tomorrow, members of the public will be able to take remote control of an armed, paintball-firing robotic dog in an art gallery.

Quirky, chaos-loving, New York-based start-up MSCHF (pronounced ‘mischief’) are behind the campaign, which highlights the risk of such machines being misused.

MSCHF mounted the compressed air gun onto the back one of Boston Dynamics’ $75,000 Spot robots  and will be linking its controls to a public website.

Spot’s ‘rampage’ will begin at 13:00 EST (18:00 GMT) on February 24, 2021 and every two minutes the site will hand over control to a different smartphone user.

The event is being held in a small art gallery constructed in MSCHF’s Brooklyn offices — one populated by paintings, vases, boxes and the firm’s past products.

Boston Dynamics have criticised MSCHF’s paintball-firing application of their robot — calling it the stunt a ‘spectacle’ that ‘fundamentally misrepresents’ Spot. 

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Forget 'a bull in a china shop' — tomorrow, members of the public will be able to take remote control of an armed, paintball-firing robotic dog in an art gallery, pictured

Forget ‘a bull in a china shop’ — tomorrow, members of the public will be able to take remote control of an armed, paintball-firing robotic dog in an art gallery, pictured

Quirky, chaos-loving, New York-based start-up MSCHF (pronounced 'mischief') are behind the campaign, which highlights the risk of such robots being misused

Quirky, chaos-loving, New York-based start-up MSCHF (pronounced ‘mischief’) are behind the campaign, which highlights the risk of such robots being misused

THEY’RE UP TO MSCHF 

MSCHF (pronounced ‘mischief’) is a Brooklyn, New York, -based start-up.

They specialise in quirky, one-off ‘product drops’ and publicity stunts.

Past products have included:

  • Nike ‘Jesus shoes’ with soles filled with holy water from the river Jordan
  • ‘Times Newer Roman’, a widened modification of the popular typeface
  • A bong shaped like a rubber chicken which squeaks when used 
  • Birkenstock sandals made from destroyed luxury Birkin tote bags
  • A clap activated/deactivated sound muffler that stops Alexa from listening in on you
  • Large artworks made from blown-up versions of old medical bills 

‘We’ve put a Spot in an art gallery, mounted it with a .68cal paintball gun, and given the internet the ability to control it,’ MSCHF wrote on their website.

‘We’re livestreaming Spot as it frolics and destroys the gallery around it.’

‘Spot’s Rampage is piloted by YOU! Spot is remote-controlled over the internet, and we will select random viewers to take the wheel.’

MSCHF are known for their unusual, one-off ‘product drops’ — with offerings including Nike Air Max shoes with soles filled with holy water from the river Jordan (complete with crucifix shoelace tags) and a bong resembling a rubber chicken that squeaks when you use it.

The intent of the start-up’s latest stunt appears to be to draw attention to the potential for robots like Spot to be misused in the future. 

‘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***s,’ the Spot’s Rampage website declares.

(Mr Rhinehart is the man behind the food-replacement drink Soylent, who has in interviews expressed resentment about having to eat at all.)

‘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,’ the webpage continues. 

‘As these war dogs become fixtures of militaries and militarized police we will all learn a new meaning of fear: an oppressor who can pull the trigger without even needing to be physically present,’ MSCHF concluded.

Certainly, the Boston Dynamics robot is already finding policing and enforcement applications. In late 2019, for example, the Massachusetts State Police broke ground by using Spot units as a ‘mobile remote observation device’ in hazardous situations.

And last year authorities in Singapore tasked Spot robots with patrolling parks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, broadcasting a message reminding pedestrians to keep their distance from each other.

According to a report by the public radio station WBUR-FM, the Massachusetts State Police is presently prohibited from using Spots as weapons, as their contract stipulates that the robots may not be used to ‘physically harm or intimidate people’.

'As these war dogs become fixtures of militaries and militarized police we will all learn a new meaning of fear: an oppressor who can pull the trigger without even needing to be physically present,' MSCHF concluded

‘As these war dogs become fixtures of militaries and militarized police we will all learn a new meaning of fear: an oppressor who can pull the trigger without even needing to be physically present,’ MSCHF concluded

MSCHF mounted the compressed air gun onto the back one of Boston Dynamics' $75,000 Spot robots and will be linking its controls to a public website, pictured

MSCHF mounted the compressed air gun onto the back one of Boston Dynamics’ $75,000 Spot robots and will be linking its controls to a public website, pictured

The event is being held in a small art gallery constructed in MSCHF's Brooklyn offices — one populated by paintings, vases, boxes and the firm's past products

The event is being held in a small art gallery constructed in MSCHF’s Brooklyn offices — one populated by paintings, vases, boxes and the firm’s past products

Spot's 'rampage' will begin at 13:00 EST (18:00 GMT) on February 24, 2021 and every two minutes the site will hand over control to a different smartphone user

Spot’s ‘rampage’ will begin at 13:00 EST (18:00 GMT) on February 24, 2021 and every two minutes the site will hand over control to a different smartphone user

In a similar fashion, Boston Dynamics have not responded favourably to news of MSCHF’s paintball-firing application of their robot.

‘Today we learned that an art group is planning a spectacle to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot, Spot,’ they wrote on Twitter.

‘To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation. Our mission is to create and deliver surprisingly capable robots that inspire, delight and positively impact society.’

‘Provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives. This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot and how it is being used to benefit our daily lives,’ they concluded. 

'We’ve put a Spot in an art gallery, mounted it with a .68cal paintball gun, and given the internet the ability to control it,' MSCHF wrote on their website. 'We’re livestreaming Spot as it frolics and destroys the gallery around it'

‘We’ve put a Spot in an art gallery, mounted it with a .68cal paintball gun, and given the internet the ability to control it,’ MSCHF wrote on their website. ‘We’re livestreaming Spot as it frolics and destroys the gallery around it’

Pictured: Boston Dynamics have not responded favourably to news of MSCHF's paintball-firing application of their robot — calling it a 'spectacle' that 'fundamentally misrepresents' Spot

Pictured: Boston Dynamics have not responded favourably to news of MSCHF’s paintball-firing application of their robot — calling it a ‘spectacle’ that ‘fundamentally misrepresents’ Spot

‘We talked with Boston Dynamics and they HATED this idea. They said they would give us another TWO Spots for FREE if we took the gun off, MSCHF said.

According to the Daily Dot, the robotics firm also proposed alternatives to the paintball gun — including outfitting Spot with an arm that would allow it to paint with a brush instead.

‘That just made us want to do this even more,’ they added.

‘And if our Spot stops working just know they have a backdoor override built into each and every one of these little robots.’ 

It seems there are already some safeguards hardwired into Spot. 

According to the Daily Dot, who were given early access to the ‘Spot’s Rampage’ experience, the dog was able to shoot in the general direction it was facing.

However, attempts to ram some boxes in the gallery head on were thwarted by the robot’s built in collision avoidance system.

'Today we learned that an art group is planning a spectacle to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot, Spot,' Boston Dynamics wrote on Twitter. 'To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation'

‘Today we learned that an art group is planning a spectacle to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot, Spot,’ Boston Dynamics wrote on Twitter. ‘To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation’

WHAT IS BOSTON DYNAMICS’ SPOT MINI ROBO-DOG?

Boston Dynamics first showed off SpotMini, the most advanced robot dog ever created, in a video posted in November 2017.

The firm, best known for Atlas, its 5 foot 9 (1.7 metre) humanoid robot, has revealed a new ‘lightweight’ version of its robot Spot Mini.

The robotic canine was shown trotting around a yard, with the promise that more information from the notoriously secretive firm is ‘coming soon’.

‘SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home’ the firm says on its website.

It weighs 25 kg (55 lb), or 30 kg (66 lb) when you include the robotic arm.

SpotMini is all-electric and can go for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing, the firm says, boasting ‘SpotMini is the quietest robot we have built.’ 

SpotMini was first unveiled in 2016, and a previous version of the mini version of spot with a strange extendable neck has been shown off helping around the house. 

In the firm’s previous video, the robot is shown walking out of the firm’s HQ and into what appears to be a home.

There, it helps load a dishwasher and carries a can to the trash.

It also at one point encounters a dropped banana skin and falls dramatically – but uses its extendable neck to push itself back up. 

‘SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built, the firm says, due to its electric motors.

‘It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. 

‘These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. 

‘SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.’ 

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