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in “ Tech news in brief ”,
January 07, 2021.

Rockin’ Robots

Dancing Robots.

© Boston Dynamics.

Over the Holidays, one of the most-shared videos was one produced by Boston Dynamics, in which various robots get down to the tune of “Do You Love Me” by the Contours, a hit from 1962, the era of the Twist and the Mashed Potato. As of writing these lines, the video has been viewed over 24 million times, and the popularity is no surprise, considering the compelling mix of technical prowess and creativity on display. To learn more about the process behind the video, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Aaron Saunders, Boston Dynamics’ VP of Engineering. In the interview (link below), we learn that the team called on human dancers and a professional choreographer to develop the moves and the routine. Ironically, the robot that had the most trouble prancing was the humanoid Atlas, since his very bipedalism, as well as his upper-body mass, made him less stable than his dance partners. For example, the spinning turns in the ballet parts took more iterations to get to work. Once the moves were ironed out, the video was filmed in just two days without any tricks, which is quite a feat. Besides the fun factor, the video also provided an opportunity to advance the robots’ design and algorithms, since skills inherent in dance, like agility, balance, and perception, are fundamental to a wide variety of robot applications.

Boston Dynamics was acquired by Hyundai Motor Group last month for US1.1 billion. The company was founded in 1992 by a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and became known for both its quadruped robots (BigDog, Cheetah, Spot) and its humanoid robots (PETMAN, Atlas). It was purchased by Alphabet’s X subsidiary in 2013, then by SoftBank in 2017. The Atlas and Handle robots in the video are just at the prototype stage. Spot is the only robot currently available for purchase, for a cool USD74,500. 

YouTube, “Do You Love Me?.”

IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman, “Hyundai buys Boston Dynamics for nearly $1 billion. Now what?.”

IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman, “How Boston Dynamics taught its robots to dance.”



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