We hope you are ready to welcome your robot overlords, because it appears that day has finally arrived. Luckily, those robots are not in terminator form, but instead cute little dog form.
In a viral video that has been doing the rounds on Twitter, a Chinese robotics company called Unitree Robotics has shared a video of an "army" of black robotic dogs moving in unison. Shared to the background theme of the Imperial March from Star Wars, it looks all too much like the beginning of a robot empire.
“The Force Awakens. Everyone, help count how many?” the Tweet writes, as it pans across the legions of robotic pups. Each one looks akin to Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog, and judging by the impressive synchronized movement, they look capable of similar feats of athleticism.
Unitree Robotics appears to be China’s answer to Boston Dynamics, designing and manufacturing mobile, autonomous four-legged robots that are able to handle obstacles and right themselves after a stumble.
Their products are all variants of a similar dog-like design, including BenBen, Aliengo, Laikago, and A1. Perhaps their most striking robot, BenBen, is designed with Chinese New Year in mind, painted like an Ox, and able to sit back on its hind legs. The recent video demonstrates the capabilities of A1, their most versatile platform. A1 features stability across rough terrain, multi-directional performance, and a pretty nifty top speed of 3.3 m/s (11.88 km/h).
The company appears happy to embrace their dark side with their marketing campaign, but Twitter became concerned at the robot army. Many responses immediately pointed out their potential for use in military applications.
“There’s only one thing we need to know about these robots: how to destroy them as quickly as possible,” wrote one user.
"Who had 'robot army' for March?" wrote another.
Unitree took this in their stride, release a meme-filled video of their BenBen robot dogs performing tricks whilst stating they are not the "baddies".
While the video shows nothing inherently sinister – well, apart from the theme tune of Darth Vader – robotic dogs and their deployment in combat is a legitimate concern. A group of artists made waves across the internet a month ago by demonstrating Boston Dynamics’ Spot running around with a mounted paintball gun, suggesting it could easily be substituted for a more deadly weapon. Boston Dynamics were quick to condemn this, stating their robots are not intended for violence.
However, Spot has been utilized by the police of Singapore in recent times, with videos showing the robot dog fitted with a camera to monitor whether people were socially distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. There have also been trials by the US Military for using Spot as a patrol bot, as well as a remote explosive ordinance checker, but it is unclear whether the dogs will continue to be utilized.