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People Can't Stop Kicking Robots

It's become a signature move for Boston Dynamics, the Google-owned robotics firm.

See Spot, a 160-pound robotic dog. See Spot walk around the office. See Spot get kicked by a human male.

It's become a signature move for Boston Dynamics, the ​Google-owned robotics and engineering firm behind ​BigDog, a hulking quadrupedal robot, and ​ATLAS, a six-foot-tall humanoid robot built with DARPA funding. Kick the robot.

Here's Spot, post-office kick, getting a swift boot to the side:

​Here's BigDog getting kicked:


And here's  ​an earlier version of BigDog getting the boot:

Bonus: When kicks fail, just ​heave a wrecking ball at the machine:

Why kicking? Maybe it's an easy stress test to run in the field. Maybe it's a way to show off BigDog's or Spot's or whatever other platform's ability to regain footing and balance after getting rocked. Maybe it's both. Boston Dynamics did not return a request for comment.

Whatever it is, it's funny, though not in ​the way we find videos of robots failing funny on account of mechanical malfunctioning.

It's funny in a more sobering sense—you're in awe, and let out a nervous, staccato chuckle—to watch an electrically-powered, hydraulically-actuated bot like Spot recover so quickly post-kick and then pair up with another Spot. There they go, trotting over uneven terrain into the sunset. Just two happy robot dogs, kicking it.