Robo Dogs Could Be Coming to Cirque du Soleil

The idea of sentient robots tends to creep people out. While humans are getting used to them performing tasks like vacuuming, surgeries, assembling products, and combat functions, not everyone is open to seeing them walk or run around freely in public. Remember those robotic dogs in Black Mirror?

Back in 2017, the “Metalhead” episode dropped on Netflix and frightened viewers with a harrowing tale of humans versus robot dog killers. But those bots were based on the real-life creations of Boston Dynamics, and folks might see those dogs in a stage show real soon.

Robot dogs by Boston Dynamics
Robot dogs by Boston Dynamics | MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil could partner with Boston Dynamics

According to The Associated Press, Cirque du Soleil says they’re in talks with the robotics company that engineered Spot, the four-legged mobile robot we’ve seen on YouTube. A number of Spot-centric videos from Boston Dynamics have gone viral which feature the dog-like robot opening doors, hauling heavy machinery, climbing hills and stairs, and working in groups.

The entertainment house is exploring some ideas on how to incorporate them into their live performances, but nothing is set in stone yet. Cirque du Soleil does not use any animals in their circus shows, so the addition of a theatrically trained dog robot could be interesting.

Boston Dynamics just recently started producing Spot on a mass scale and is tapping into their commercial use. For the first time, the camera-equipped SpotMini is hitting the market and will primarily be used in the security and construction industries.

The company started out in the early ‘90s with military funding and today, Spot is one of Boston Dynamic’s creations that is capable of moving through dry or wet conditions and can operate in the light or dark.

‘Black Mirror’ creator tapped into the Boston Dynamics robotic dog project

As mentioned by Concord Monitor, Boston Dynamics is aware that people are afraid of its robots, or at the very least, have concerns. Spot was one of the major inspirations behind the aforementioned Black Mirror episode.

Show creator Charlie Brooker shared with Entertainment Weekly that those viral videos were an influence in a “what if” sort of way:

“That’s actually scarily correct. It was from watching Boston Dynamics videos, but crossed with — have you seen the film All Is Lost? I wanted to do a story where there was almost no dialogue. And with those videos, there’s something very creepy watching them where they get knocked over, and they look sort of pathetic laying there, but then they slowly manage to get back up.”

Aside from when they were sleeping, those “Metalhead” dogs were anything but docile and cute. Brooker went on to say that they purposely left of the backstory of how the killer robots took over, but the concept certainly played to some viewers’ fears.

Would a robot dog fare well in a Cirque du Soleil show?

If you’ve watched the Boston Dynamics videos then you know that Spot can endure a fall, a kick, or weird terrain, so in many ways, the robots are capable of acting in a human’s place. This is especially true where safety is a concern.

Cirque du Soleil’s sophisticated shows can involve water, fire, high-flyers, spectacular light displays, and much more, leaving opportunities to work Spot in somewhere. Boston Dynamics highlights its programming is customizable for the robot, and the dog-bot also has the ability to identify and navigate obstacles. Circus tricks would be new.

Should these two companies choose to team up, it would be a first for both, and audiences could be excited about the prospect of seeing a Cirque du Soleil show with a robotic creature. And Spot could reach a new level of fame. That would be quite the achievement.