That is the question the guys over at Boston Dynamics suddenly found themselves faced with after releasing the video of their robotic dog “Spot” last week.
The video was met with a completely unexpected backlash after people began complaining on Twitter and elsewhere about the mistreatment suffered by the “dog” in the clip.
The video shows employees kicking Spot the robotic dog to prove how stable it is on its feet and make their point perfectly well. However, their actions have been called “cruel”, “wrong” and have even raised concerns about robotic ethics. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Google’s Boston Dynamics released a video last week designed to show off a smaller, lighter version of its robotic dog, dubbed Spot. During the footage, employees are seen kicking Spot to prove how stable the machine is on its feet, but this has been dubbed ‘cruel’, ‘wrong’ and has raised concerns about ethics.
The four-legged, 160-pound robo-dog can run, climb stairs, jog next to its Boston Dynamics owners and adjust its balance on uneven terrain, even when kicked.
Spot was built by Google-owned Boston Dynamics and is known as the “little brother” of the company’s larger Cujo, or “big dog”.
Boston Dynamics has not said what Spot’s intended use is, but the video showed the robotic canine climbing up and down hills, walking through offices and, of course, being kicked repeatedly.
2. Following the video’s release, viewers posted concerns on Twitter. One user wrote: ‘Kicking a dog, even a robot dog seems wrong.’Andother said: ‘Spot the dog has kickstarted a legit ethical debate over robot rights’.
— Robot Robots (@RobotList) February 10, 2015
— ╤ò╤é╤ö╬╜╤ö (@Steve_Law) February 16, 2015
— CNN (@CNN) February 13, 2015
After the video was released, viewers shared their concerns on Twitter. One user tweeted:
Kicking a dog, even a robot dog seems wrong.
Just wrong, kick a robot dog as practice: Google’s dog robot looks too real for comfort when getting kicked.
Yet another user tweeted:
When I first saw [the] Boston Dynamics video I was very disturbed regarding dog-kicking. I’m not the only one.
3. The four-legged, 160lb robo-pet (picutred walking through Boston Dynamic’s offices) can run, climb stairs, jog next to its owner and correct its balance on uneven terrain, and when kicked.
Another Twitter user commented:
Spot the dog has kickstarted a legit ethical debate over robot rights.
Then CNN decided to film human reactions to the video and many viewers said that they were shocked and surprised. However, not everyone was quite as concerned.
One viewer tweeted:
Kicking a dog is wrong; it feels, breathes, and remembers. A robot is a piece of sheet metal.
4. Spot (left) was built by Google-owned Boston Dynamics and is the ‘little brother’ of the firm’s larger Cujo, or ‘big dog’ (pictured right) Boston Dynamics has not revealed what Spot will be used for, its video showed the robot-animal climbing up and down hills, walking through offices and, of course, being kicked repeatedly.
Another user asked:
Are they alive? You people need clarity.
Yet another tweeted:
Is it cruel to kick a hammer? A rock? A cardboard box?
When consulted over the video, animal rights group PETA said:
PETA deals with actual animal abuse every day, so we won’t lose sleep over this incident.
But while it’s far better to kick a four-legged robot than a real dog, most reasonable people find even the idea of such violence inappropriate, as the comments show.
5. Introducing Spot — Boston Dynamics.
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