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Boston Dynamics Spot robot takes center stage in holiday greeting

Boston Dynamics’ recent holiday greeting offers a high-tech spin on Santa, upgrading jolly Saint Nick’s fleet of reindeer with a trio of the company’s quadruped robots. Led by Rudolph the Red Nose robot, the three Spot robodogs eerily prance while they pull a female Santa and her sleigh across the lawn of the business park. It’s a short but sweet video that will delight robots fans and terrify the masses with its charming creepiness.

Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Boston Dynamics is best known for its Atlas humanoid and BigDog quadruped robots. Funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the BigDog was created in 2005 for military use. Because of its four-legged gait, the quadruped can walk over obstacles and move across a variety of steep and difficult terrain. It can travel as fast as four miles per hour and can carry up to 340 pounds of gear, making it an ideal mechanical mule.

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The engineering and robotics design company this year unveiled its latest four-legged robot Spot, which stars in this holiday clip. The next-generation quadruped has a streamlined design that makes it smaller, lighter and more nimble than its “Big Dog” predecessor. Looking to the animal world for inspiration, you can think of the Big Dog as a bull and Spot as a goat. The Spot quadruped can run, climb stairs, and even survive being kicked without losing its balance. The Marines are interested in the compact robodog for field infantry support, and tested the capabilities of the robot soldier in field trials earlier this year.

Founded by MIT professor Marc Raibert in 1992, Boston Robotics was acquired by Google in December 2013 for an undisclosed amount. It is now part of Google X, the company’s experimental research and development division that oversees other projects such as Google Glass and the self-driving car.