Boston Dynamics makes robots.
Not, like, improbable, fantastical, sci-fi robots. Like, real, functional, practical robots. Robots that, sooner or later, are going to start getting shit done.
You might have seen videos online of the robots the company develops for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other interested parties. They’re terrifying metal-and-rubber works of animated techno-punk art, brought to life through an unknowable alchemy of cutting-edge engineering, computer science and about a dozen other disciplines.
If you haven’t seen them, just think of the fleshless final-reel killer from the first Terminator movie, without a head and stalking you on all fours. Or an armor-clad spider with fewer legs and about a trillion times the body mass.
Yeah, like that.
Last week, Boston Dynamics debuted its latest creation, a four-legged nightmare machine dubbed the WildCat. Designed for all sorts of high-risk duties from firefighting and disaster recovery to military applications, the WildCat carries its own power supply, and lopes at nearly 30 miles per hour in astonishingly organic movements patterned after those of a cheetah.
At rest, however, WildCat doesn’t look like a cheetah. Standing awkwardly — at what, two meters? — in a sort of half-crouch, it looks like a bomb that hasn’t gone off, or maybe like the results of one that has. It’s ugly and dangerous-looking.
Which is going to make it sort of awkward and humiliating when people eventually start trying to have sex with it.
Oh, come on — you know it’s going to happen.
If the whole of human history has taught us one undeniable truth about our kind, it’s that we will have sex. With. Anything.
A minor college athletic team’s mascot costume.
Think of a thing, literally anything, and someone, somewhere has had sex with it. If it’s small, somebody’s put it somewhere; if it’s large, somebody’s put something in it. Repeatedly. We just can’t help ourselves — we’re just driven to express our sick, sick love.
And nothing inspires our sick, sick love quite like robots. A thing that moves and acts and listens and is almost, almost alive, and that will never contradict us or turn its back on us or deny us? Who wouldn’t want to show such a thing how much it’s appreciated? That’s why people love C3PO and Robbie the Robot and Twiki and Kim Kardashian — because if we tell them to love us, and to die for us, then they will.
It gets lonely in the badlands of Afghanistan, or some earthquake-torn village.
It won’t be long before even something as utilitarian and weird as WildCat starts to look like a bit more than an electronic pack-mule, before that fluid, cheetah-inspired movement starts to look positively … feline.
It’s going to happen.
So, please, brainiacs of Boston Dynamics, and all robot builders present and future. Do the world a favor and put some curves on that thing.
And maybe some handles.
Read more Scott Harrell at lifeasweblowit.com. Follow him @harrellscott.