Boston Dynamics gives Spot-bot a furry makeover

Boston Dynamics may have moved the bipedal Atlas to a nice farm upstate, but the company continues to let everyone know that the four-legged line of Spot robots still has a lot of life left in them. And after years of obvious comparisons between dogs and bots, the creators of Spot finally got to work and commissioned a full cartoon dog outfit for their latest video showcase. Sparkles is here and like his fellow Boston Dynamics family, he's perfectly capable of cutting a rug.

Unlike, say, a mini-Spot programmed to aid search and rescue in disaster zones or explore hard-to-reach areas in nuclear reactors, Sparkles seems designed purely to provide some levity for viewers. According to Boston Dynamicsthe glittering, blue, Muppet-esque upholstery is a “custom costume designed specifically for Spot to explore the intersections of robotics, art and entertainment” in honor of International Dance Day. In the short clip, Sparkles can be seen performing a routine next to a more standardized mini-Spot, without any additional clothing.

But Spot bots like this duo aren't always programmed to dance to humanity's applause; their intricate movements highlight the complex software built to take advantage of the machine's overall maneuverability, balance and precision. In this case, Sparkles and his partner were trained using Choreographer, a dance-specific system made available by Boston Dynamics to entertainment and media industry clients.

[Related: RIP Atlas, the world’s beefiest humanoid robot.]

With Choreographer, Spot owners don't need a degree in robotics or engineering to get their machines moving in rhythm. Instead, they can choose from 'high-level instruction options', rather than having to key in specific joint angle and torque parameters. Even if one of the Boston Dynamics robots running Choreographer can't quite execute a user's routine, it is coded to approximate the request as closely as possible.

“When asked to do something that is physically impossible, or when faced with an environmental challenge such as a slippery floor, Spot will find the possible move that most closely resembles what was asked and do that instead – analogous to what a human dancer would do,” company explains.

Choreographer is behind some of Boston Dynamics' most popular demo shows, including this one BTS dance-off and the “Uptown funk” videos. It's nice to see that the robots' movements are constantly improving, but maybe it's still nice that at least for once people don't have to think about a dog bone with a weapon. Or even what to do to humanity waiting for Atlas' two-legged successor to finally hit the market.

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