Rudolph the Red-Nosed…Robot?
Erin Green posted on December 24, 2015 |

A holiday greeting from Boston Dynamics and its eerie robotic "reindeer."

Move over, Amazon. There’s a new delivery service in town.

Drones could be delivering our packages as soon as next year, but this year, Santa has some (surprisingly terrifying) robotic reindeer to help with his deliveries. After all, other companies have been turning to robotics to make things more efficient – why can’t Santa?

A Very Robotic Sleigh Team

The video shows three of Santa’s “reindeer” all dolled up in their holiday best. If you look closely, you’ll see that the one at the front even has a red nose on its sensor face.

In actuality, they’re Spot bots, the smaller brother of Boston Dynamics’ BigDog robot. They’re part of the company’s original mandate to develop droids that pair artificial human (and animal) movements and foundational robotics software.

Spot weighs in at about 160 lbs. (72.5 kg) and as an all-terrain dynamic robot, it can handle most anything you throw at it – including a sudden boot to the flank. It’s designed to walk on any surface and respond to unexpected situations as you can see in the video below.

The Mystery of the Hounds of Boston Dynamics

Spot (second to left) and its siblings LittleDog, BigDog, WildCat and LS3 (left to right) are part of a military-funded program which keeps details under wraps. (Image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.)

Spot (second to left) and its siblings LittleDog, BigDog, WildCat and LS3 (left to right) are part of a military-funded program which keeps details under wraps. (Image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.)

As cool as these bots are, they’re really a mystery.

The only things known about Spot at this point is that it uses an electric motor and hydraulic actuation to trot itself around. Its spinning head is a sensor that assists with rough terrain and navigation.

Boston Dynamics was bought out by Google back in 2013 and since then, things have been very hush-hush. In fact, this is the first time Spot has been seen in public since its official unveiling back in February 2015.

The bots now reside in Google X’s semi-secret lab, where they help out with the military-funded M3 program. The Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiative to develop robots that can act as pack animals (like reindeer) to assist soldiers in battlefields.

The sudden reappearance of Spot could be a hint of long-awaited things to come from the Google X lab – or maybe it’s just a holiday greeting from our future robot overlords.

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