For those unfamiliar with the phrase, “uncanny valley,” it’s usually used to describe inanimate objects that bear a striking resemblance, either through appearance or behavior, to human beings. That unsettling sense of familiarity combined with the supremely foreign leaves the observer feeling uncomfortably, uneasy, and in some cases, even threatened. If you’re still having a bit of trouble understanding the feeling the phrase characterizes… look no further than the latest video released by Boston Dynamics.
Boston Dynamics have developed a veritable army of two and four legged robots capable of doing all sorts of things, though for our sake, hopefully the robots don’t think of themselves in such terms. Previous releases have included their back flipping Atlas robots and the BigDog program developed for the U.S. military as a quadruped pack mule. One of their most recent creations bares some similarities to each: the SpotMini is a four legged robot that can be equipped with an extendable arm.. Or neck.. Or whatever you feel is most the most appropriate descriptive term for this nightmare fuel.
Calling these robots “nightmare inducing” may sound like editorializing… but it’s actually how the company’s own CEO, Marc Raibert, characterized another of their robots, called Handle.
SpotMini, in a less dressed up form, was unveiled the public in 2016 in a video that seemed to try to present the robot as a helpful household appliance, taking dishes out of the sink and loading them in the dishwasher and strolling around the house. Of course, the fact that the robot looks like the metal skeleton of a skinned dinosaur does take away a bit from its cute factor.