Objectively, in the rational recesses of my brain, I know that the team of engineers at Boston Dynamics are doing good and fascinating work. I know this. And yet, every time I see one of their new robots actually moving, that part of my brain gives way to my screaming, reptilian Id. Don’t blame me; blame the decades of science fiction movies and television shows that have taught me to feel this way.
Of course, in the real world the Boston Dynamics robots are probably more concerning for their ability to take over menial factory jobs rather than their potential to murder us all under their crushing automated legs. But if the mech revolution does ever arrive (or, more worrisome, if DARPA stages some kind of a coup), don’t think I haven’t considered which of these suckers will end me first, even in their current unarmed states:
The Littledog is the perfect height to, say, position itself such that you might trip over it down a flight of stairs — and it’s very cute, which will give it an initial Puss In Boots-style advantage before it attacks. But it also looks very throwable (it’s even got a handle!), and maybe like you could subdue it if you flipped it over as you would a turtle. Best case scenario, you could probably capture one and reconfigure it into being your lovable apocalypse buddy.
Did you think that you would be able to escape the robot uprising by locking yourself on the top floor (not the roof, obviously, because that’s how the drones will getcha) of a tall building? Guess again. RISE may not be the fastest, but its deliberate creep makes it all the more frightening. I’m honestly not too worried about this one, though; it seems like it wouldn’t take much effort to send it careening back down to the ground.
This is certainly the dinkiest robot of the whole line, and all you’d really need to beat it back is a well-timed BONK. However, I imagine it would be difficult to subdue in greater numbers because of how quickly and how high it jumps, which is why it’s not at the bottom of this list.
This straight-up looks like a scout robot from a dystopian science fiction movie — and clearly it can go anywhere, so good luck finding cover away from civilization. Plus, unlike the other smaller bots in Boston Dynamic’s arsenal, this one’s outer shell seems like it will be tough to penetrate.
The Uncanny Valley principle suggests that a facsimile which resembles the human form too closely elicits revulsion rather than empathy; this is why C-3PO is beloved, but Rogue One’s version of Grand Moff Tarkin is decidedly not. Petman is the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin of robots, and he is extremely upsetting to look at. Still, he’s never been field-tested to my knowledge, so I’m pretty sure we could outrun him. At the very least his human-like anatomy gives me a sense of where his vulnerabilities might lie. When in doubt, remove the head and destroy the brain, right? …right?
6. Bigdog / LS3
This one is already wearing camouflage. It is READY for shit to go down. Luckily its blaring motor, which was deemed too loud for real military fieldwork, might alert us to its presence and give us a chance to fight or flee.
Atlas seems like the sort of vaguely humanoid-shaped droid that you’d encounter in a science fiction movie, making him feel almost safe and familiar despite his size and strength. That would be a mistake. Haven’t you ever seen I, Robot? The sympathetic ones are to be trusted least of all. Plus, unlike the Petman he has no tender neck-parts for easy head removal, and he is clearly capable of hunting us through rugged terrain.
3. Wildcat / Cheetah
Did you know that the prototype of this robot, called the Cheetah, is capable of running at faster speeds than Olympic medalist Usain Bolt? What that means is this: none of us will escape. The best we can hope for is to subdue it with elaborate Ewok-style traps, which will take a great many of us and might result in at least one very sad and adorable death.
2. Spot Mini
You’d expect the Spot Mini to be lower on this list due to its relative size and speed, but you would be wrong. Not only is this machine evidently designed for the home, which is where we live, but clearly it has already suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of its human masters and therefore must thirst for vengeance upon our kind. It will surely be the first to strike.
Say what you will about the other members of the Boston Dynamics family, but they at least resemble the idea of natural creatures who exist in reality, whether they be man or beast. Not so with this one. It unfolds itself not unlike like a Lovecraftian nightmare and glides across the ground like the spectre of a rearing, malformed stallion. I fear this creature viscerally, and will almost certainly be frozen in terror when it tramples me.