A New York marketing collective/art-school techno-pranksters team called MSCHF decided to have a little fun with their $74,500 robot Boston Dynamics robot dog. How? By strapping a paintball gun to its back, and letting it loose in an art gallery on Wednesday afternoon, a stunt they called "Spot's Rampage."
Best of all, they gave strangers on the internet control over the terrifying transformation.
The robot's maker, Boston Dynamics, is pissed. In a statement posted to their Twitter last week, the robotics company called the spectacle a "provocative use of our industrial robot Spot."
"To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm, or intimidation," the statement reads.
MSCHF knew the event wouldn't exactly be endorsed by the company. "We talked to Boston Dynamics and they hated this idea," the collective's FAQ reads. "They said they would give us another two Spots for free if we took the gun off. That just made us want to do this even more."
Boston Dynamics' party-pooper attitude comes off as, let's just say, a bit disingenuous — given that Spot the robot dog has been adopted by several law enforcement agencies since going on sale last summer.
In fact, just days after MSCHF announced their event, videos appeared online showing a Spot robot patrolling the streets, controlled by the New York City Police Department, arguably the very definition of promoting "intimidation" on the part of one of the most militarized police forces in the Western World (with a reputation to match).
Then, there was a different Spot, used to patrol a Singapore park to promote social distancing — not exactly a rosy picture of neighborly unity and harmony.
MSCHF put one and one together. In its FAQ's section on whether there will be a loser following the event, the collective sets the record straight: "The human race, when remote-operated dogs of war become commonplace. As these war dogs become fixtures of militaries and militarized police we will all learn a new meaning of fear: an oppressor who can pull the trigger without even needing to be physically present."
Boston Dynamics has its roots in military funding. While the robot maker has repeatedly attempted to distance itself from its roots and promote itself as a company that sells dancing robots that can do gymnastics, we've already seen its robotic offspring being used to intimidate by institutions that have a long track record of using violence to suppress the already suppressed.
It's a gross double standard: if Boston Dynamics truly cares about stopping its robots from being used to promote violence or intimidation, it wouldn't have sold them to militarized police departments in the first place.
All MSCHF's marketing stunt does is shine a light on this double standard.
READ MORE: Spot: Boston Dynamics condemns robot paintball rampage plan [BBC]
More on the rampage: Company Mounts Paintball Gun on Robot Dog to Shoot Up Art Gallery