The world’s most advanced dog?
Robotic design company Boston Dynamics, which was sold back in June by Google's parent company Alphabet Inc to Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank Group Corp, has just released a teaser video for its latest project, the SpotMini.
The design and engineering company has been wowing the globe with its advanced (if not a little creepy) robots for years. Its range of models spans from the six-legged robot RHex, to an advanced bipedal humanoid robot that stands at 6 feet tall called Atlas.
The SpotMini follows on the same line as previous quadrupedal robots from the firm including the BigDog, Cheetah and LS3, but looks far more polished. The latest model comes with a glossy yellow and grey panelling which hides the mechanical insides, a new feature that certainly makes it look more finished. Boston Dynamics say of the robot, “SpotMini inherits all of the mobility of its bigger brother, Spot, while adding the ability to pick up and handle objects using its 5 degree-of-freedom arm and beefed up perception sensors”,
“The sensor suite includes stereo cameras, depth cameras, an IMU, and position/force sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation”.
Unlike previous models which have generally been developed for study, often in connection with other researchers, it appears that Boston Dynamics may well be developing the SpotMini for consumer use, or at least hinting towards it.
The company note that the SpotMini is “coming soon”, which might lead us to believe that it will become available for purchase in the future. Boston Dynamics have also commented that “SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home”, once again suggesting that this might be a robot designed for consumer use. Being the first public development announcement since SoftBank’s purchase of the company, it would potentially make sense that Boston Dynamics is delving into the manufacturing of a retail product.
Boston Dynamics pronounce the all-electric SpotMini as being the quietest robot it has built, and that it can run for approximately 90 minutes on each charge. The robot weighs just 25kg. The recently released snippet video shows the robot bounding into camera view, before appearing to look straight down the lens before running out of sight. The video has had mixed reviews ranging from people being amazed at the realistic doglike way the robot moves, to concerns about the future use of the technology.
There is no doubt that robots will shape a large part of the future, something that Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert noted at a conference earlier in the year when he asserted that he believes robots will one day be bigger than the internet.
There is still much to learn about the SpotMini and its future, but we are certain that this is not the last we’ve seen of this robo dog!
Image © 2017 Boston Dynamics