Boston Dynamics Highlights AI-Powered Robot Safety at AI Summit London

Policy and ethics combined with self-learning AI make robots safer for humans

Berenice Baker, Editor

June 13, 2024

2 Min Read
A Boston Dynamics robot dog is displayed during the Viva Technology show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24 in Paris, France.
Chesnot/Getty Images

Boston Dynamics is incorporating AI-powered self-learning into its agile, autonomous robots to make them safer.

Speaking on a panel on how to innovate responsibly at the AI Summit London, Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and government relations for Boston Dynamics, started with a background of how its robots are used for good.

“There's a reason we didn't have eyes in our new Atlas AI robot. Instead, it has a circle that looks like a Pixar robot,” he said. “There's a lot of science fiction fear of advanced robotics and so we work against that.”

Instead, Schulman said, Boston Dynamics robots have been used in the rescue of kidnapped children in Florida. Last year a Spot robot was shot three times in a shootout in Massachusetts and others are used in bomb disposal. Boston Dynamics is using AI to make all its robots better.

“Most of our robots are not used in public safety, they're used in industrial applications,” Schulman said. “We had a Spot robot carrying out inspections for the beverage manufacturing business that kept slipping on the wet floor. We used reinforcement learning to make the robot capable of walking across that space almost perfectly.”

This fix led Boston Dynamics to deploy that improvement in a free software update across its entire fleet of Spot robots, making them more reliable.

Related:NASA Charts AI, Robotics, 3D Printing as Path for Mars Sustainability

Beyond its in-house improvements, Boston Dynamics is party to wider governance oversight. The company’s home state of Massachusetts, California and New York have passed state legislation that will prohibit the weaponization of robots, for example.

“How is this AI governance? Well, to me, this is the physical embodiment of AI,” said Schulman. “We talk a lot about AI misinformation, intellectual property theft and misappropriation but the physical aspects of AI will touch us in physical ways throughout our lives. I'd like the bill to work toward an international model, working collaboratively with other government stakeholders around the world.”

Robots could also transform human health by taking on dull, dirty and dangerous manual jobs. Boston Dynamics’ most recent but lesser-known product is a warehouse automation robot called Stretch. It is a rolling pallet fitted with different arms that lift boxes.

“That's a robot that will automate warehouse, heavy lifting out boxes, jobs that literally are breaking people's backs and that people hate. They would much rather do a different job in the warehouse, and our vision is for them to become a robot wranglers management team and direct the world of automation.”

Related:VisionWorks Chief AI Scientist Laurence Moroney on AI in Moviemaking

Schulman cited a recent report that found that there will not be enough workers because the population is getting older and having fewer babies. The only way to manufacture and move things around will soon be robotics and automation.

“We need collaboration with industry and government, standing up workforce training and education via STEM programs so that people know how to use automated technologies so that their jobs can be safer, better and higher paid,” he concluded.

Read more about:

AI Summit London 2024

About the Author(s)

Berenice Baker

Editor, Enter Quantum

Berenice is the editor of Enter Quantum, the companion website and exclusive content outlet for The Quantum Computing Summit. Enter Quantum informs quantum computing decision-makers and solutions creators with timely information, business applications and best practice to enable them to adopt the most effective quantum computing solution for their businesses. Berenice has a background in IT and 16 years’ experience as a technology journalist.

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