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Why Boston Dynamics’ New Robot Scares the Crap out of Us

Handle, the latest robot from Google-backed Boston Dynamics, elicits both excitement and anxiety. The company's founder has described it as "nightmare-inducing." 

Boston Dynamics' screenshot, from the video "Introducing Handle"

Perhaps singularity is a little too near


The latest video by robot developer Boston Dynamics, which seems to always coincide with a rise of Terminator references, has elicited a wide range of strong emotional reactions. The new robot, Handle (because it will be handling objects), brings forth a sense of awe for its speed, agility, strength, and ability to jump. At the same time, the machine’s impressiveness brings forward deep-seated fears of robots-gone-wild. 

We don’t want the student to become the master.

“This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot.”-Boston Dynamics’ founder Marc Raibert, introducing Handle at a private event in late January 2017. 

It is easy to picture Handle as either:

1. A benevolent robot working alongside human employees in a warehouse. (Bonus: no sore back from lifting all of those heavy boxes.)

2. A weaponized robot deployed by militaries. (I wouldn’t want to go up against Handle in a human vs machine version of BattleBots.)

Raibert was right in his prediction that Handle would be viewed as nightmare-inducing, with a flurry of comments online expressing a certain level of anxiety. 

New @BostonDynamics Handle #robot is a parkour master; I’m delighted & horrified in equal measure. https://t.co/ZF1YJ1dB5A#bostondynamicspic.twitter.com/239r50N03b

— Ian Keddie (@IanJKeddie) February 27, 2017


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