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Behind those dancing robots, scientists had to bust a move

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Boston Dynamics' SpotMini Robot is on display during WIRED's celebration of its 25th anniversary at the WIRED25 Summit on Oct. 15, 2018, in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25 )

The founder of a company whose dancing robots captured imaginations worldwide says their development taught his scientists a lot about taking their creations to the next level.

A video that went viral on social media in December shows the robots of Boston Dynamics dancing to a the Motown hit “Do You Love Me?” Company Chairperson Marc Raibert said a year and a half of sophisticated programming, simulation and choreography powered the project.

Raibert said teaching robots to dance with fluid and expressive motions was a new challenge for a company that spent years building robots with functional abilities such as walking, navigating terrain and picking things up.

In the video, two of the company's humanoid Atlas models do the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for warehouse work.

Boston Dynamics is infamous for its scary robot videos, but this one is clearly a playful attempt to close the books on 2020.

"Our whole crew got together to celebrate the start of what we hope will be a happier year," the Waltham, Massachusetts, company said in the caption of the video.

Thousands applauded the robots' moves and the technology powering them. Others appeared to be a little freaked out by their dexterity.

"Slightly creepy, I have to admit," tweeted Carl Bildt, a Swedish diplomat who co-chairs the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"Do you love me? Not when you come to annihilate us," tweeted Jan Nicolas, a photographer.

Other videos of the robots also have appeared on social media, including this one, with them dancing to another tune.