No evidence video shows a real ‘fighting robot’

5 May 2023
What was claimed

A video shows that Boston Dynamics is teaching its robots how to fight.

Our verdict

The footage appears to be computer-generated and there is no evidence it’s associated with Boston Dynamics.

Social media posts with millions of views have claimed a viral video shows a robot, supposedly from the US robotics company Boston Dynamics, that has been taught how to fight. 

In the video the robot, which looks similar to the company’s humanoid robot Atlas, does a backflip and throws several punches into the air. 

The video appears on both Twitter—where it has 3.8 million views—and YouTube, with the caption: “Why is Boston Dynamics teaching their robots how to fight?”

But a closer look suggests that the video is computer-generated and there is no evidence that it is a real robot made by Boston Dynamics. A warning note highlighting this has since been added below the video on Twitter

The footage appears to have been first published on 30 April on TikTok, where it now has over 4.4 million views. The TikTok video was published with the hashtags “#boston” and “#dynamics”, but does not otherwise make the same explicit claims about it being a Boston Dynamics robot or the company teaching its robots how to fight. Images and videos can often spread quickly online and create an incorrect or misleading picture of events while appearing to do the opposite. We have previously written guides on how to spot misleading online images and videos

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What are the clues which suggest the footage isn’t real?

While the video has a watermark saying “@boston_dynamic”, the name of the TikTok account that appears to have first shared it is actually “Botsom_Dynamics”. The real Boston Dynamics doesn’t have a TikTok page.

Another clue that the video may not be genuine is that it hasn’t been posted on any of Boston Dynamics’ official social media pages. While genuine videos posted by Boston Dynamics do show that their Atlas robots can perform acrobatic stunts, such as a backflip, there are a number of differences between the robots in the company’s videos and in the footage now being shared. For example, the real Boston Dynamics robots all have a blue logo on the front, whereas the robot in the most recent video is plain white. Fact checking organisation Snopes, which has also examined the footage and concluded that it is fake, says that “smaller details” vary considerably between the Boston Dynamics robot and the robot in the video, and the TikTok robot “appears much simpler in design”.

In 2022 Boston Dynamics, along with other robotics companies, pledged not to add weapons to its devices or support bodies that may do so. But it’s been reported that this does not rule out their use for other military applications, such as reconnaissance and surveillance. 

A different Boston Dynamics robot, known as ‘Spot’, is reportedly being used by the NYPD (New York Police Department) and tested by the French military

Full Fact has contacted Boston Dynamics for a comment and we will update the article if we receive a response.

Image courtesy of Jérémy Barande

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