Technology

Boston Dynamics robot used in French military training

Spot can be seen standing alongside armed military in some photos of the training.

Boston Dynamics’s robot dog has been in a variety of places and scenarios, from jumping rope to an unauthorized, “provocative” paintball game. Now, Spot is also being prepared to take on the battlefield.

Photos shared on Twitter by French military school École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr show Spot’s bright yellow form alongside armed French soldiers.

But not to worry, Spot wasn’t in actual danger. The robot canine was part of some training and was used for reconnaissance, according to The Verge, which translated parts of news source Ouest-France’s article to English.

Spot was part of an effort for military students to learn about the potential of robots being used on the battlefield in the future, The Verge reported. Other robots were also being used as part of the training, which ran for two days.

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A request for comment from Boston.com to Boston Dynamics went unreturned on Friday. However, Michael Perry, the company’s vice president, told The Verge that while he knew European distributor Shark Robots had a supply of the robots, the company didn’t know about their exact use.

“We’re learning about it as you are,” Perry told the publication. “We’re not clear on the exact scope of this engagement.”

In the Ouest-France article, one participant in the training said that while the robots slowed things down, they did lower potential casualties.

“During the urban combat phase where we weren’t using robots, I died,” one soldier said, as reported by The Verge. “But I didn’t die when we had the robot do a recce first.”

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In the past, Boston Dynamics — whose terms of service say their products “cannot be used to harm or intimidate people or animals” — has been critical of their robots being used as weapons. MSCHF, a performance art company in Brooklyn, once mounted a paintball gun to Spot. Called “Spot’s Rampage,” the event allowed random people to control Spot for two minutes while the robot was inside an art gallery.

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

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