Technology

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog is being used for a ‘provocative’ paintball game — and Boston Dynamics is not happy about it

“Provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives. This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot."

Marc Raibert, left, founder of Boston Dynamics, watches one of the company's Spot robots during a demonstration last month. Josh Reynolds / AP

Boston Dynamics loves to show off the many abilities of its doglike robot, Spot:

Jumping rope. Dancing. Politely holding the door for its companions.

One thing that the Waltham-based company — conscious of its robots’ public perception — does not promote is the possibility of its semiautonomous creations being used as weapons. However, that is exactly what is happening Wednesday.

The subversive Brooklyn-based performance art company MSCHF announced Monday that it will allow people to remotely control a Spot robot mounted with a paintball gun during a live-streamed session Wednesday afternoon. The 1 p.m. event, called Spot’s Rampage, will let a different random viewer control the $75,000 robot from their phone every two minutes as it roams inside an art gallery.

“We’re livestreaming Spot as it frolics and destroys the gallery around it,” MSCHF (pronounced “mischief”) says on its website, which includes the tagline “See Spot KILL!!”

Boston Dynamics is aware of the event, and they’re not pleased.

Ahead of the news, the company released a statement condemning the “provocative use” of Spot. While Boston Dynamics has marketed its products to the military, their terms of service says they “cannot be used to harm or intimidate people or animals.”

“Provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives,” the company said. “This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot and how it is being used to benefit our daily lives.”

Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert has said that they see Spot being used for mostly mundane industrial uses. The company said Friday that violations of their terms of service, which also prohibits Spot being used in illegal activity, “will automatically void the product’s warranty and prevent the robot from being updated, serviced, repaired, or replaced.”

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However, for MSCHF, flouting the company’s wishes is the point of the event Wednesday.

“We talked with Boston Dynamics and they HATED this idea,” the company says on their website. “They said they would give us another TWO Spots for FREE if we took the gun off. That just made us want to do this even more and if our Spot stops working just know they have a backdoor override built into each and every one of these little robots.”

While Boston Dynamics says their products are meant to “inspire” and “delight,” MSCHF calls Spot an “empathy missile, shaped like man’s best friend and targeted straight at our fight or flight instinct.”

“When killer robots come to America they will be wrapped in fur, carrying a ball,” MSCHF says, adding that the event Wednesday may just be the beginning.

“Spot may be back” says the website. “Can’t say too much just yet.”

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