Google-owned robotics firm Boston Dynamics has published a cheerful festive video on YouTube wishing us all 'Happy Holidays'. The short clip shows an iconic scene with (Ms) Santa Claus in her gift-laden sled, ploughing through the snow (grass), being lead by her trusty reindeer (antler appendaged robots).
The video shows a trio of Boston Dynamics Big Dog rough terrain robots, dressed up in reindeer attire, capably replacing the flesh and blood reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh. Big Dog seems like a good candidate for reindeer replacement, with its ability to walk, run, climb and carry heavy loads. It has an on-board computer to control locomotion, process sensor information and handle communications with the user. Sensors include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope, LIDAR and a stereo vision system.
Boston Dynamics' Big Dog is specified to be able to cross snow and shallow water, walk across rubble, climb muddy hiking trails and over other adverse environments. However its top speed of 4mph and inability to fly won't be putting Santa's real reindeer out of work any time soon.
There are lots of other interesting robot designs detailed on the Boston Dynamics web site including the 'agile' humanoid Atlas robot, a robot called LS3 which can carry a soldier's pack over rough-terrain (a bit noisy though), the world's fastest legged robot called Cheetah (29mph), and a vertical climbing robot named RiSE. All the designs are meant to challenge people's perception about the capabilities of robots and hopefully lead to the production of useful machines to help people in real-world situations.