How many SpotMini robots does it take to haul a big truck? Boston Dynamics' new video shows 10 of its canine-inspired machines attached to a box truck like sled dogs, pulling it across the company's parking lot with a one-degree uphill slope. There was a driver behind the wheel during the demonstration, probably to prevent accidents, but the vehicle itself was in neutral. Boston Dynamics built the all-electric SpotMini as a quadruped robot that weighs 66 pounds. The machine can run for up to 90 minutes, depending on what it's doing -- its battery life is probably a lot shorter than an hour-and-a-half when it's hauling trucks, though.
It's the undisputed heavyweight champion of AI held up as proof of machines hell-bent on the destruction of humanity. In my experience seeing Atlas do parkour and backflips, and four-legged Spot robots get pushed around by humans, Boston Dynamics is a close second. These robots fascinate and terrify people. If facial recognition software and Amazon's Alexa are held up as popular examples of surveillance capitalism, Boston Dynamics videos are usually shoved in my face by people afraid of these robots' mobility and physical prowess. This is partially due to the advanced robotics and unique design, and partially due to the success of a YouTube campaign over the course of the past six months in which each video sucks up millions of views.
At CEBIT back in June, Boston Dynamics' CEO Marc Raibert mentioned in a talk that they're currently building about 100 SpotMinis, and that they're planning on scaling that up to be able to build something like 1,000 SpotMinis by the end of 2019. This has attracted some attention recently, since it seems like Boston Dynamics is ready to "productify" its robots on a commercial scale, and Raibert even mentioned some areas in which they've had interest from potential customers. "We're trying to take what we already know, and reduce it to practice by making robot products," he said. "Robot products are new for Boston Dynamics … we've been operating for a long time working on the future, and now we're trying to make practical products." Making practical robotic products is a very difficult thing to do, as Boston Dynamics knows.
BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – A robotics company owned by SoftBank Corp. and known for its widely shared videos of nimble, legged robots opening doors or walking through rough terrain is preparing to sell some after more than a quarter century of research. U.S.-based Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert said Friday that his company plans to begin selling the dog-like SpotMini robot next year, likely to businesses for use as a camera-equipped security guard. But he thinks other applications for the four-legged contraption will be likely developed by other companies, because the robot has a flat platform to allow other equipment with its own computer programming to be easily mounted on top of it. SpotMini gets around with the help of cameras on its front, sides and one mounted on its rear -- a position that Raibert calls the "butt-cam." Boston Dynamics already has made 10 SpotMinis with plans to manufacture about 100 more for additional testing this year before going into mass production by the middle of next year, Raibert said.
That was the message delivered by Agility Robotics and Boston Dynamics during their respective opening and closing keynotes at the inaugural Robotics Summit & Showcase, produced by The Robot Report and WTWH Media in Boston. Agility Robotics CEO and co-founder Damion Shelton updated attendees on its Cassie bipedal robot. Boston Dynamics co-founder and CEO Marc Raibert quickly discussed the wheel-leg hybrid robot Handle, which he said we'll hear more about in 2019 with a real application, while focusing more on the Atlas bipedal and SpotMini quadruped robots. Raibert conducted a live demo of SpotMini (watch below) where the robot traversed a small obstacle and picked up a soda can and handed it to Raibert. Neither company claims legged robots are a fit for every application.