The Creepy Robot Dog Botched a Test Run With a Bomb Squad
Emails reveal how Boston Dynamics’ Spot fell down on the job during a trial with the Massachusetts State Police.
Spot, Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, is still trying to work out some kinks, according to emails and reports reviewed by OneZero.
The documents, which were obtained through a public records request, outline the agreement between Boston Dynamics and the Massachusetts State Police’s bomb squad, which borrowed Spot for a 90-day trial that ran between August and November 2019. The lease contract was previously reported by local public radio station WBUR.
But OneZero also obtained 28 pages of emails in which the police and the company discuss Spot’s performance during a threat, as well as the robot’s difficulties walking on stairs and hills without experiencing technical issues or toppling over.
When they turned Spot on, the robot went into “sit” mode, and they couldn’t get it to walk toward the target.
The messages detail Spot’s performance in at least one bomb investigation with the state troopers.
On August 26, 2019, a call came in from a Walmart in Westboro, Massachusetts. Multiple employees reported being alarmed by a man who exited the store carrying an “old brown briefcase.” The man then placed the briefcase atop a trash can in the store parking lot and left, which gave the employees an “uneasy feeling.”
The bomb squad brought Spot along to investigate. When they arrived at the scene, a police technician powered Spot up, hoping to have it walk toward the briefcase and assess the danger. According to a report the police provided to Boston Dynamics, when they turned Spot on, the robot went into “sit” mode, and they couldn’t get it to walk toward the target. After rebooting Spot, they tried again, but again the robot went into sit mode.
The bomb squad was eventually able to get Spot to walk over to the briefcase and take video. They reported that the video quality wasn’t very good. They said the video capabilities “did not allow for any detailed or super accurate examination of the item or the…