Robot reindeer for the original Christmas wishes by Boston Dynamics

Big dog robots during a test (Source U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. M. L. Meier)
Big dog robots during a test (Source U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. M. L. Meier)

Boston Dynamics, a robotics company acquired almost exactly two years ago by Google, published a really special video of Christmas greetings. In the company’s interpretation, a woman Santa Claus is the less weird element because she’s driving a sleigh pulled by robot reindeer. This is obviously one of the Boston Dynamics models, specifically the BigDog.

The BigDog robot is a quadruped model that can walk, run, climb and carry loads. It was built taking four-legged animals as a model in the design of its legs. It can’t exactly run like a greyhound as it can get a little over 6 km/h (4 mph) but can climb on land with inclinations of up to 35 degrees and can carry more than 140 kg (340 lbs) of load. It is about 90 cm (3 feet) long, about 75 cm (2.5 feet) tall and weighs nearly 110 kg (240 lbs).

The development of the original BigDog was funded by DARPA to assist soldiers in the field and in particular in terrains too rough to use conventional vehicles. A variant called Legged Squad Support System (LS3) was developed in recent years but eventually limitations such as its noise, the repair problems in case of failures and its integration in patrols convinced the Marine Corps that tested it to abandon the project.

At Christmas, Boston Dynamics decided to use the BigDog robots for a task more peaceful than the military one they were originally designed for. Therefore, here’s the video showing a very original version of Santa Claus with her sleigh pulled by robot reindeer.

The reactions started arriving immediately after the the publication video and have been in most cases negative. Many people got disturbed by the vision of robots and also in several articles published on the Internet the comments speak of a terrifying vision.

The vaguely humanoid models of Boston Dynamics robot were compared to Terminator so all in all these reactions aren’t surprising. Part of this effect may be given by the fact that they break a certain Christmas tradition. Personally, I saw nothing shocking and for me the Christmas tradition is irrelevant so I thought that it was a cool idea. In any case, there’s a lot of talking about it so it was a success.

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