Spot, robot for art: MSCHF's provocation

Spot, robot for art: MSCHF's provocation

Spot, robot for art

Among the realities involved in the robotics area, Boston Dynamics is perhaps the best known, both for its history (it was first of Google, then of SoftBank and finally it passed to Hyundai) and for the type of units designed. Among these is Spot, a quadrupedal automaton designed for the industrial sector. Someone thought of buying it and using it for a somewhat provocative artistic performance.

MSCHF: Spot's Rampage and Boston Dynamics' answer

"Spot's Rampage" is the title of the exhibition scheduled for the February 24th by the MSCHF collective, a reality specialized in organizing viral campaigns on social media or creating rather bizarre content: on these pages we have reported the extension to watch Netflix in the office and the Times Newer Roman font. What is it about? By connecting to the website of the initiative, it will be possible to control the robot and shoot a paintball gun remotely.

The reaction of Boston Dynamics was not long in coming and came in the form of a Twitter post in which he distances himself from such a use of his robot, labeling it as "provocative".

Today we learned that an art group is planning a show to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot Spot. To be clear, we condemn the depiction of our technology in a way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation. Our mission is to create and deliver surprisingly capable robots that inspire, entertain and positively impact society.

- Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) February 20 , 2021

According to some, among the reasons that led Google to sell the company in recent years, precisely the fact that, despite being technologically advanced, the units could be seen as potential threats. The fact that Spot can be bought by the authorities doesn't help. BD continues.

A provocative art form can help stimulate dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives. This, however, basically misrepresents Spot and how it can be used for the benefit of all.

Source: Spot's Rampage

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot to be used in controversial paintball art project

Boston Dynamics’ famed Spot robot is generating some controversy online, and there’s nothing the Waltham-based company can do to stop it.

A street-art company in New York called MSCHF (pronounced “mischief”) has purchased one of the four-legged $75,000 robots and mounted a paintball gun on its back. On Wednesday, MSCHF said, it will hold an online event called “Spot’s Rampage,” which will put the armed robot inside an art gallery. Randomly chosen people from around the world will be given a chance to use their smartphones to remotely control the machine and blaze away with the compressed-air gun, splashing paint all over the place.

Boston Dynamics isn’t pleased by the prospect. “We condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm or intimidation,” the Waltham-based company said in a statement issued on Twitter. “Provocative art can help push useful dialogue about the role of technology in our daily lives. This art, however, fundamentally misrepresents Spot and how it is being used to benefit our daily lives.” The message also hinted that MSCHF’s use of the robot may void its warranty and prevent the machine from being repaired or from receiving software updates.

Boston Dynamics did not provide any further comment in time for publication.

MSCHF issued a statement of its own. “We talked with Boston Dynamics and they HATED this idea,” the company wrote on its website. “They said they would give us another TWO Spots for FREE if we took the gun off. That just made us want to do this even more...”

In a separate e-mail to the Globe, MSCHF founding team member Daniel Greenberg pointed out that Spot is a smaller version of legged robots that Boston Dynamics built for the US military. “I think they are so upset because they work so hard to make people think Spot is just a cute robot but this is opening people’s eyes to what it really is,” wrote Greenberg.

MSCHF is a maker of street-art products modeled after the work of artists like Banksy and Andy Warhol. The company has produced “Jesus Shoes” with soles filled with holy water, and shirts made from randomly stitched-together corporate logos.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.

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