If you found yourself trembling with fear at the sight of Boston Dynamics’ updated SpotMini dog-like robot when it bounded into view last November, then you’re going to suffer a full-on meltdown when you see the latest version.
The SpotMini now comes with a terrifying appendage, one so incredibly versatile that the feared robot apocalypse now seems more “when” than “if.”
In a video that’s as entertaining as it is unnerving, we first see November’s SpotMini approach a closed door. With no way to open it, the robot dog just stands there, waiting. The video’s title — Hey buddy, can you give me a hand? — hints heavily at what’s coming, with the latest SpotMini appearing in shot with that extendable appendage.
The four-legged robot extends its mechanical arm, turns the door handle and opens it, letting both robots through. But it’s not just the arm that impresses, it’s also the incredibly fluid and lifelike movement of the SpotMini.
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) May 11, 2018
And now, we’re a step closer to being able to see the action of this robot up close and personal. After nearly three decades, Boston Dynamics will finally begin selling its robots, beginning with none other than the SpotMini. Commercial availability is slated for 2019, as per an announcement from founder Marc Raibert at TechCrunch’s TC Sessions: Robotics event at UC Berkeley.
“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,” Raibert said onstage.
The SpotMini is said to be “quietest robot [Boston Dynamics] has built.” It weighs in at 66 pounds and can go for around 90 minutes on a single charge. Already, the company says that it has contracted manufacturers to build 100 SpotMinis later in 2018, and will then scale production so that they can sell units beginning next year. While there’s no word yet on price, the company has said that the SpotMini prototype was 10 times less expensive than its older sibling.
In the first SpotMini video from 2016, we’re shown the original robot performing various chores around the house, including loading up the dishwasher and throwing away trash. It also takes a tumble on a banana skin, suggesting at least one way we humans can defend ourselves against any upcoming robot rampage.
The most recent SpotMini design appears to incorporate sensors on the front and sides of its main body that help it understand its environment. Truth is, Boston Dynamics has so far revealed little about the SpotMini, choosing instead to modify it before filming skits and posting them on YouTube.
Boston Dynamics has been developing a range of robots, each with their own skills. Atlas, for example, has the remarkable ability to perform a perfect backflip, though it’s not always so steady on its feet.
In any case, we’re looking forward to seeing the SpotMini in the flesh (or its robotic equivalent).
Updated on May 13: The SpotMini will go on sale in 2019.