Let’s dance! Boston Dynamics and BTS make the Hyundai K-Pop Boogie (video)

Their arms stretch out, spin like the sun, squeeze inward, sway from side to side, then cross. Aligned in a row so that one dancer mimics the other in form and flow, they are one but different. They are able to jump and reach, dive and point, so the effect is synchronicity and grace. It is a type of gestalt of art and technology that extends beyond the reach of one or the other. And the mechanical movements are inspired by an easy and light pop rhythm.

“Spot’s on It”, the latest dance video from the robotics maker Boston Dynamics, commemorates the recent acquisition of the company by Hyundai Motor Company. The video features four-legged Spot robots dancing to “IONIQ: I’m on It”. This anthem was released last year to celebrate the launch of Hyundai Motor’s dedicated electric vehicle brand, IONIQ.

In the 1 minute and 20 second video, several Spot robots synchronize in a series of smooth steps, backing up, lifting, hopping, stomping, turning, diving and tapping. These are skills inherent in dance, which enhance agility, balance, and perception, and have been applied by Boston Dynamics to a wide variety of robotic applications. The company states that robotic choreography is “a form of highly accelerated life cycle testing for hardware.”

The Art-in-Robotics movement

Robots are fun, quirky, and fluid, and each tricky step is part of a carefully choreographed segment by Monica Thomas that takes advantage of the robots’ ability to move just like any other, then turn and grab the air. possibilities. They lift their heads, rotate 90 degrees and open their “mouths”. The movements combine so that the robot interpreters create subtle expressions and mirrored patterns.

In an interview with Dance review, Thomas revealed that she spent a lot of time watching the robots move to get a feel for the flexibility of their joints, then played each part herself. The choreography arose out of conversations with the engineers about what was currently possible and what movements they liked to see in their work with each robot.

From a technical point of view, the ability to vary the movements of the robots demonstrates the progress made by these Boston Dynamics robots since their first public performance. Engineers built tools and created a “pipeline that allows you to take a diverse set of movements, which you can describe through a variety of different inputs, and push them through and onto the robot,” according to the. Boston Dynamics engineer, Aaron Saunders.

Marketing is the message

Starting in October 2018, Boston Dynamics featured a mechanical dog named Spot who was dancing to “Uptown Funk” – sung by Bruno Mars – as well as a humanoid robot called Atlas who ran and jumped over obstacles.

Sydney Skybetter, Professor of Choreography and Emerging Technologies at Brown University and Founder of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces, described the conception of choreography groups where the part moves like the whole as both “a technique and a tactic”. Such complexity and subtlety marks “Spot’s on It” as a significant departure from previous Boston Dynamics dances, says Skybetter, adding that Boston Dynamics is a company that “takes dance seriously, with the intersection of ballet, dance and dance. boy groups and battalions an appropriate mechanism to consider ‘Spot’s on It.’ ”

He notes the following change in the art behind the Boston Dynamics message.

  • This video had a more intense production apparatus behind it than its predecessors: “Spot’s on It” is accompanied by a user-friendly corporate blog post that, for the first time, chronicles how Boston Dynamics deploys the choreography. in its marketing and engineering processes.
  • In another first, Thomas is publicly credited as the dance choreographer for Boston Dynamics. Her work in viral videos like “Uptown Spot” and “Do You Love Me?” has been made “virtually invisible,” so Boston Dynamics ‘decision to highlight Thomas’ role in this latest video is a substantial posture change.
  • In the hands of artists, these machines become eminently capable of expression through performance.

The company’s self-proclaimed goal is to “change your idea of ​​what bots can do”, and they’ve made huge strides with the “Spot’s On It” video. It is difficult to distinguish between robots, and sometimes it is not known which robot “head” belongs to which robot body.

The music behind the Boston Dynamics method

Boston Dynamics’ latest dance video has over 32 million views on Youtube. The soundtrack for the “Spot’s on It” video was recorded by Hyundai’s Global Ambassador and 7-member South Korean mega-band BTS. The music that grounds the video has an energetic and pleasant beat, with BTS reveling in the word “IONIQ”.

With a huge fan base in the United States, BTS is known for their occasional posts, live stream video logs, or product episodes of their reality TV-style webcast “Run BTS!” The clips created a kind of intimacy between BTS and their fans that other K-pop groups have since tried to emulate. The BTS army acted as a network of unpaid translators, producing English subtitles and texts of their content, connecting BTS to their non-Korean audience.

Boston Dynamics’ collaboration with BTS, one of the most popular groups on the planet with an extremely active fan base, is certain to accumulate even more success and visibility, making visible the interface between art and technology.

Final thoughts on Boston Dynamics

The feats of Boston Dynamics robots are truly incredible. The coordinated dance routine involved incredibly precise programming as an alternative to using the robot’s built-in sensors or obstacle avoidance algorithms that Spot typically uses to move and complete tasks. “Everything had to be worked out in advance and scripted with precision”, Explain Eric Whitman, Boston Dynamics roboticist.

SpaceX used one of the robots to inspect the Starship SN10 crash site. With the advancement of Boston Dynamics to solve the dilemma of how to make robots walk like animals, balance, maintain an upright stature, and overcome obstacles, the next steps (pun intended) will develop robotic athletic performance such as restraints. dance rings compatible with mechanical design. robot, which emphasizes software algorithms.

In June 2021, Hyundai Motor Group, Boston Dynamics, Inc. and SoftBank Group Corp. ad the completion of the Group’s acquisition of a majority stake in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank, following receipt of regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The deal valued the mobile robot company at $ 1.1 billion.

“With the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, Hyundai Motor will expand its new robotics business to provide customers with exciting mobility experiences. ” mentionned Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Director at Hyundai Motor. “We are eager to explore new marketing opportunities to communicate with Generation Y and Generation Z, in particular, about the enormous potential offered by Hyundai’s new robotics in everyday life, enabling the progress of humanity. “

Photo courtesy of Hyundai

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