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Boston Dynamics and USA Military Contract

Published by: Lucien Paulemil
May 29, 2022 7:31 pm

The Boston Dynamics company is particularly known for building robots with human-like behavior. Today, Boston Dynamics is one of the most advanced robotics companies in the world.
But who buys the robots made by the world leader in robots with human AI? For the most part, the U.S. military!

The U.S. military supported Boston Dynamics, especially in its early days

Today, South Korean automaker Hyundai holds 80% of the company's shares in Boston Dynamics. But that was not always the case. One of the company's early financial backers was DARPA. This agency reports to the United States Department of Defense. The tasks that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency undertakes primarily include research projects for the U.S. military.
Among other things, Boston Dynamics has developed the "BigDog" model for DARPA. This is a robot that is supposed to carry loads like a horse. And it does all this completely without human intervention.

Further development of the BigDog

The BigDog robot was not to be the end of the story. As early as March 2012, Boston Dynamics improved the model, now known as AlphaDog. The successor model to the BigDog, released in February 2013, now even has a robotic arm. This enables the robot to penetrate those areas that humans cannot reach themselves. Or this would be too dangerous for them.

Boston Dynamics isn't the only robotics company DARPA works with

Robotics has become so ubiquitous in the U.S. military that DARPA already works with three different independent companies that build robots for the U.S. military.
The agency, under the control of the U.S. Department of Defense, also held the so-called DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC for short) annually from 2012 to 2015. This international robotics competition was particularly intended to promote new technologies. The main approach was to build robots that could be used in rescue missions. The Challenge was founded after the nuclear power plant in Fukushima was destroyed and access to the site was too dangerous for humans.
In April 2012, DARPA chose Boston Dynamics to be the sole supplier of the DRC's robotic systems. In exchange, the robotics company received $10.8 million in capital. In contrast, Boston Dynamics was to supply humanoid robots called "Atlas."

Boston Dynamics still works with the U.S. military today

The suggestion that Boston Dynamics is working less with the U.S. military under Hyundai's influence couldn't be further from the truth. Even today, the U.S. Department of Defense and Boston Dynamics have an agreement.
One of the projects led by Boston Dynamics is "Autonomous Robotic Manipulation," or ARM. The goal of this project is to develop autonomous robotic systems that can be used to relieve the workload of human forces. Such systems can then be used, for example, in bomb disposal or to rescue wounded soldiers. In general, anywhere soldiers might risk their lives.

Is cooperation with the military ethically justifiable?

There are many people who view a contract between a company and the military with suspicion. After all, people die all the time during military operations. But anyone who thinks that should also take a closer look at what companies like Boston Dynamics are doing.
The U.S. robotics manufacturer does not supply the U.S. military with cutting-edge weapons systems. No model built by Boston Dynamics would be capable of fighting on the front lines and wiping out human lives. Rather, the purpose of Boston Dynamics' robotic system is to protect human lives. Thus, a contract between the U.S. military and Boston Dynamics can also be morally justified.

Does a contract between the military and Boston Dynamics affect investors?

Anyone who wants to put their money into a Boston Dynamics share will currently have to wait. At the moment, the robotics company is not yet listed on the stock exchange. Nevertheless, interested investors have been waiting for some time for Boston Dynamics to realize its IPO soon.
However, one of the financial experts fears that the cooperation with the U.S. military in particular could be a thorn in the side of morally demanding investors. The fact that Boston Dynamics' robotics systems are designed to support and not eliminate humans is nevertheless not accepted by some moralists.
Anyone who is worried about the possible share price because of this can breathe a sigh of relief. After all, the U.S. military is not the only one of Boston Dynamics' major customers. In the past, the main shareholder was Google; today, the car manufacturer Hyundai holds 80% of Boston Dynamics' shares. And they are also planning to launch major projects together with this robotics company. So we can remain excited! In any case, analysts predict that Boston Dynamics will keep its share price stable.

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