Spot isn’t just good for patrolling oil rigs in Norway.
The doglike Boston Dynamics robot is also at least somewhat adept at the veritably un-futuristic task of pulling people around in an old-timey carriage, as former “MythBusters” host Adam Savage demonstrated this week.
In what is promised to be the first of “many” adventures with Spot on Savage’s web-series “Tested,” the professional handyman-turned-TV personality took Spot out to the California police training grounds that served as the location for many “MythBusters” tests to see how well the four-legged semi-autonomous robot could drag him around in a self-made, 19th century-style rickshaw cart complete with lanterns.
“I wanted an early video to be a simple task that we give Spot that is fun and evocative and strange — and hilarious,” Savage said, noting that he has had a peculiar, longtime obsession with rickshaws.
Savage first received Spot, which he says he “coveted for years,” in early December for “development” purposes. Boston Dynamics has been leasing Spot to different organizations, and, as Marc Raibert, the CEO of the Waltham-based company, has noted, the versatile robots are designed to be altered for varying tasks.
This probably wasn’t something he originally had in mind.
After more than 20 painstaking minutes of designing a ball-hitch handle to attach Spot to the rickshaw, Savage and Boston Dynamics field operations lead Seth Davis took it for a test run.
The first try went OK; using Spot’s default settings and with Davis remotely controlling it, the robot was able to pull Savage (and his top hat) in the rickshaw down a straight path, but struggled when it reached a slight incline. But when they played with Spot’s software so that it was aware of the weight and forces it was bearing, things were much more successful.
“He’s doing this,” Savage exclaimed as Spot pulled him up the hill.
“That is the first of what will be many adventures ‘Tested’ will have with Spot over the next year,” he said.
Going back down, as the final seconds of the nearly half-hour episode showed, were a bit less successful.