Roll over, SpotMini — here comes the ALMA robo-dog

Roll over, SpotMini — there’s a new robo-dog in the ‘hood and it’s snapping at your heels.

Created by Swiss-based Robotic Systems Lab, ALMA, which stands for articulated locomotion and manipulation, is a quadrupedal robot just like Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini. And, offering another SpotMini parallel, ALMA comes with a mechanical arm capable of performing a range of “manipulation tasks,” Cnet reports.

A recently posted video shows autonomous ALMA opening a door with relative ease, a vital maneuver if the bots are ever going to rise up and cause havoc for us humans. Watch as ALMA’s slightly scary-looking extendable appendage, complete with its three-pronged “hand,” reaches up to the door handle, grips it, turns to open it, and walks on through.

The video also shows ALMA holding a glass of water without spilling it, and helping a human to lift a box.

The skill with which it handles these different tasks points to a number of possible applications. For example, placing ALMA at airport customs — together with a latex glove dangling from its middle prong and a sign saying “this won’t take a moment” — would surely be enough to discourage even the most determined of smugglers from bringing illegal items into the country.

Joking aside, it seems the team behind ALMA is keen to give it a friendly face, perhaps to encourage more people to take an interest in its four-legged robot. This is demonstrated in particular by the video clip showing ALMA helping to clear trash from around some small bushes. Hardly the harbinger of doom for those fearing the robot takeover, eh.

We see ALMA identifying a plastic bottle, picking it up with its robotic hand, and dropping it into a nearby trash can. With more development, the team hopes its creation can be used in disaster areas, surveying difficult-to-access areas, and carrying vital supplies to those in need. It could also be used in work settings to perform routine tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more important duties.

Boston Dynamics also has plans to commercialize its own very impressive SpotMini robo-dog, with the first ones set to go on sale in 2019. The cost, however, is yet to be revealed.

Fancy finding out more about robo-dogs? Then check out this awesome piece tracing the evolution of Boston Dynamcs’ four-legged robotic creations.

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