Inspiring or decadent? Poetic or vulgar? Liberating or threatening? Friends or enemies? Machines or companions? Robots have fascinated mankind even long before they adopted that name and when the image we have of them today was not even a fantasy.
In ancient Greece they invented human-shaped mechanical machines that served wine and something similar had China in ancient times. In contemporary history they have accompanied us in many ways, although the public knows them less for their scientific details and more as legends formed in the heat of popular culture, literature and film.
From Mary Shelley's humanoid robot in Frankenstein to Isaac Asimov's wonderful stories in I, Robot, including his endearing Bicentennial Man, later embodied in film by Robin Williams. On the list are the cute Robotina from The Jetsons, the well-known R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars, or even the courageous TARS from Interstellar.
References to robots as chimera that blow the human mind are countless and range from the cute to the terrifying. Regarding the latter, it is enough to remember the dictatorship of machines in The Matrix, which turns what remains of the human race into thermal batteries, or the omnipresent HAL 9000 from 2001 A Space Odyssey.
The historical tour could be much more lengthy. Terminator, Wall-E, the bartender from Back to the Future III, the Artificial Intelligence little boy, the Transformers, Baymax from Big Heroes, Bender from Futurama ...
And then we arrive in 2020, a strange year from beginning to end that had as a corollary on December 29 the diffusion of a viral video in which four real robots, made with state-of-the-art technology, dance in perfect choreography to a rock and roll from 1962, Do you love me, a Mowtown song by The Contours that audiences may remember as part of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
Those who have seen it pulse with two qualifiers that predominate: tender and chilling. The packaging is the same popular culture as always, but the background is not science fiction but the most absolute portrait of an amazing reality.
Influencers and super powerful. Many of the 25 million people who to date have seen the video to which we refer did not know Atlas, Spot and Handle, the emblematic characters of the American company Boston Dynamic, a robotics laboratory born within the Institute of Massachusetts Technology (MIT), bought by Google in 2013, sold in 2017 to SoftBank Japanese and now, acquired just a few days ago by Hyunday Koreans.
The trio we mentioned constitute the most advanced robots in the world, unless it is known. Certainly their choreographic video went viral, but they are already influencers. Footage of these characters is all over YouTube and shows them performing all kinds of tasks, parkours, and physical prowess challenges.
All are inspired by forms of nature. Atlas is a kind of humanoid that moves with hydraulic functions; Spot is "a dog" with superpowers; and Handle is a warehouse assistant with a silhouette reminiscent of an ostrich, or perhaps a kiwi, that exotic bird that cannot fly because it has no wings.
All three robots have extraordinary mobility and agility capabilities. The most impressive to look at is the Atlas, which due to its great resemblance to our species gives the impression of being a Robocop without a shell; But the most brilliant in terms of skills and usefulness is Spot, which is sold as a pet or assistant at the modest price of $ 75, currently works as a watchman at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and, as a major professional achievement, was selected to walk in herd on NASA's upcoming unmanned mission to Mars.
Spot to the red planet. It sounds like the premise of a movie. Before receiving humans, Mars will be conquered by a terrestrial pack of robot dogs; to better specify, from a herd of Spots, which in its astronaut and recharged version will be called Au-Spot.
The project was announced in December at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual conference, in which NASA / JPL-Caltech researchers participated.
The idea is simple. While it is true that the rovers that have exploded Mars so far are capable of moving across the Earth's surface, they are limited to that surface. They cannot enter caves easily and do not have the same maneuverability as devices like Spot.
So why not equip a Spot-like dog with artificial intelligence and sensors of different kinds to venture into those unexplored corners? It is right there where the prototype that is already in the training phase comes into play.
So far, Spot has already been proven as a construction helper, as a scout on all kinds of terrain, carrying weight, and tracking spaces like a hound. You can do all this alone, and when you work in a herd you have the ability to coordinate collective actions.
Meanwhile, on February 18. Before the Au-Spots arrive on Mars, the history of the exploration of the neighboring planet will open a new chapter with the arrival of Perseverance, the explorer robot that left Earth in mid-2019 and is already in the final phase of your trip.
The reason for his trip to Mars is to search for life or traces of microbial life in the lower layers of the ground, and for that he will excavate, collect samples, take photographs and even fly a drone overhead, in what will be the first Earth flight in Martian territory. .
Perseverance, like the rest of the robots that have reached Mars, will not return to Earth. It will leave the organized samples awaiting a rescue mission that may perhaps go on in 2031. It seems like a too long-term project to seem exciting, but that's how these types of ventures work that involve resources and technology so vast.
Meanwhile, the video of the dancing robots continues to accumulate not only visits but parodies. A very particular one that is also on the way to going viral replaces the song of The Countours with one composed especially for the group of dancers, in which they supposedly sing verses in binary language. The comments reveal what they say in infinite mixtures of ones and zeros: we will conquer them by dancing.