Boston Dynamics’ four-legged SpotMini robot to go on sale next year

Boston Dynamics‘ door-opening, obstacle-surmounting SpotMini robot dog will go on sale in 2019 but opinion is divided on whether it will edge us closer to apocalypse or utopia.

The fact you probably won’t be able to buy it makes that a moot point, though, at least to begin with, since they will only be producing a mere 100 commercial-purpose dog-bots.

Companies that want a quadruped robot that reach places less agile machines cannot are likely to be first in line. Eventually, however, the company shall look mass produce and sell them for use in people’s homes.

“The SpotMini robot is one that was motivated by thinking about what could go in an office — in a space more accessible for business applications — and then, the home eventually,” said founder Marc Raibert onstage at TechCrunch’s TC Sessions: Robotics event today at UC Berkeley on Friday.

SpotMini’s could be useful for security patrols, surveying building work and various other sundry tasks since they can be customised with attachments and extra software for particular jobs.

“Most places have something where wheels don’t get you everywhere,” Raibert said. “We think SpotMini can go to a much larger fraction of places.”

The day before, Boston Dynamics demonstrated how it can teach the new dog new tricks using autonomous navigation.

The high-profile robotics company first came to prominence with its gas-powered Big Dog quadruped, which could navigate challenging terrain without losing its balance.

Not long after, the company unveiled Atlas, a humanoid robot that can flips, picks up boxes and can now run.

SpotMini, whose development began when Boston Dynamics was a Google subsidiary, is lauded for its cuteness and idiosyncratic movements. Plus, the company say it is the quietest robot they have ever built.

The 17-joint robot pup weighs in at 30kg, can operate for 90 minutes on a charge and uses a 3D vision system to perceive the world around it.

It must be operated by a human but the machine works on its own initiative to achieve the task in hand.

“The motion planning software is taking into account where the obstacles are, where the good places are, and coming up with motion control, all in real time,” Raibert said.

In the long run, robots could be more important than the internet, he claimed.

“The internet lets you touch all the information in the world, but robots let you touch everything in the world and manipulate it. That’s a bigger idea.”


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