SpotMini

1,000 robotic SpotMini dogs per year unleashed by Boston Dynamics

Image credit: Boston Dynamics

The Massachusetts-based company is set to begin mass-producing its robotic quadruped, SpotMini, which could perform tasks in construction, delivery, security and domestic assistance sectors.

Boston Dynamics, which was acquired by Alphabet’s X in 2013 and then by SoftBank in 2017, is best known for its large, mobile robots which mimic the naturalistic movement of humans and animals. Its broad portfolio includes Atlas, a humanoid robot capable of athletic feats, a cheetah-style running robot and even a flea-inspired robot with a powerful 9.1m-high jump.

However, it is best known for its dynamically stable dog-like quadruped robots. The Defense Advances Research Projects Agency funded its development of a large robot, BigDog, to carry heavy loads across uneven terrains to assist with military operations. The company later unveiled a much smaller quadruped, SpotMini. This robot can navigate around known environments and interact with its surroundings – such as by opening doors – using a claw on the end of an arm, which is attached where its head would ordinarily be.

While BigDog’s noise levels prevented it being deployed, SpotMini has been described as the company’s quietest robot yet. It is also the smallest of the company’s quadrupeds and has a 90-minute battery life.

In May, the company announced that SpotMini was set to become Boston Dynamics’ first commercial product.

Now, founder Marc Raibert has told Inverse that the company has already built 10 by hand, that it will build 100 with manufacturers by the end of 2018 and will be scaling up to produce the robots at a rate of 1,000 units per year after this time.

The robot is less than 1m high and as heavy as a large dog, rendering it appropriate for use in the home and other indoor settings. The robot is currently being tested for use in several sectors: delivery (as an alternative to delivery drivers and unmanned aerial vehicles), security and domestic assistance applications.

Raibert told Inverse that SpotMini could be easily tweaked to perform a limitless range of tasks; its claw could be altered with the addition of third-party accessories, such as power tools or security cameras. According to Inverse, the company hopes that its robots could become “what the Android [OS] is for phones: a versatile foundation for limitless applications”.

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