See Boston Dynamics push its door-opening dog robot around

Humans are still in charge in a new video showing Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robo-dog getting yanked around with a hockey stick and a butt leash.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
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SpotMini gets a hockey stick on its "head."

Boston Dynamics video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Boston Dynamics is living its own kind of "Black Mirror" story line with a new video highlighting the abilities of its dog-like SpotMini robot. But this time there's a human in the picture and he comes off as kind of a jerk.

The robotics company unveiled a simultaneously cute and unsettling video back on Feb. 12 showing a headless SpotMini walking up to a door and then receiving a portal-opening assist from a second SpotMini equipped with an extendable arm. Naturally, we all trembled and despaired for our futures.

The new video, released Tuesday, shows humans are still the boss. It's called "Testing Robustness" and stars a man with a hockey stick alongside the SpotMini. It's got everything: action, drama and triumph.

All the poor SpotMini wants to do is open the door and walk through it, but a guy pushes its head around with the end of a hockey stick and then pulls it backward with a leash attached to its butt. The robo-critter's butt plate even falls off. 

Before your heart totally breaks, SpotMini does end up succeeding in its mission. 

Boston Dynamics explains how the robot operates, saying, "A camera in the hand finds the door handle, cameras on the body determine if the door is open or closed and help navigate through the doorway. Controllers provide locomotion, balance and adjust behavior when progress gets off track."

Once you get past the roughness of SpotMini's treatment, it's really pretty impressive to see how it's able to bounce back and adjust as needed. Boston Dynamics notes, "This testing does not irritate or harm the robot."

Boston Dynamics is known for letting its people push the company's robots around, including in a 2015 video introducing its larger four-legged Spot robot. We know it's important to test the robots' abilities in adverse conditions, but it's just a little hard to watch when SpotMini is so endearing. 

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