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Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot shows off its grabbing skills in new video

Siri and Alexa make great virtual assistants in the home. But they’re not exactly capable of scooting round and picking up your underwear (and who can really blame them?). Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot isn’t quite so lucky, however.

In a new video, which the robotics company released Monday, its quadruped Spot robot is shown using its superior robotics abilities to, well, clean up after its messy human overlords.

Spot's Got an Arm!

“Now that Spot has an arm in addition to legs and cameras, it can do mobile manipulation,” Boston Dynamics says. “It finds and picks up objects (trash), tidies up the living room, opens doors, operates switches and valves, tends the garden, and generally has fun. Motion of the hand, arm and body are automatically coordinated to simplify manipulation tasks and expand the arm’s workspace, making its reach essentially unbounded.”

The company goes on to note that the behavior being showcased was programmed using a “new API for mobile manipulation that supports autonomy and user applications, as well as a tablet that lets users do remote operations.”

The company also promises more Boston Dynamics-related news this week. There is a livestream on YouTube set for 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Februay 2. According to its title, the livestream will show off “Spot’s expanded product line.”

Real-world applications

Spot, which weighs 55 pounds without the extra manipulator arm, was unveiled by Boston Dynamics in 2016. Since then, Boston Dynamics has shown it carrying out all kinds of different dexterous tasks. Some of these have been lab-based demos, although an increasing number have shown Spot functioning in the real world. For example, in November 2020, it carried out inspection tasks on the Skarv floating production storage and offloading vessel in the Norwegian Sea.

It’s not exactly a mass-market product, however. That might help explain why Boston Dynamics, which has only recently started to make its robots available for purchase, has changed hands a number of times over the years. In the past 10 years alone, its controlling interest has moved from Google (which bought it in 2013) to SoftBank (which bought it in 2017) to Hyundai (which bought it late last year.)

No-one can deny that it’s got some pretty impressive tech, though. But at a retail price of $74,500 to buy a Spot robot, you’d probably be better off picking up your own darn socks!

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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