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Agility Robotics and Boston Dynamics share their thoughts on falling bots
Everybody likes watching robots fall over. We get it, it’s funny. And we here at IEEE Spectrum are as guilty as anyone of making it a thing: Our compilation of robots falling down at the DARPA Robotics Challenge eight years ago has several million views on YouTube. But a couple of months ago, Agility Robotics shared a video of one of its Digit robots collapsing while stacking boxes during the ProMat trade show, which went nuts across Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. Agility eventually issued a statement to the Associated Press clarifying that Digit didn’t deactivate itself due to the nature of the work, which is how some viewers reacted to the viral clip.
Agility isn’t the only robotics company to share its failures with an online audience. Boston Dynamics, developer of the Spot and Atlas robots, may have been the first company to be accused of “robot abuse” because of its videos, and the company frequently includes footage of its research robots being unsuccessful as well as successful on YouTube. And now with 1,100 Spots out in the world being useful, falls happen both more frequently, and more visibly.