Boston Dynamics is an innovative American robotics company that was founded by Marc Raibert. This company makes a range of agile robots that can complete various functions and they have recently announced that they are bringing their first commercial product to the market. This is a dog-like robot they have called Spot-Mini.
Raibert announced the launch of this product in May and has said that his company will be producing these new robots at a rate of 1,000 units a year by next July. However, this is only a short-term goal for the company.
There is a much broader goal for Boston Dynamics and this is to create a more flexible platform that is suitable for a variety of applications. The founder told Inverse that they are currently testing SpotMini for use in a variety of sectors, including delivery, security, and construction. They are also looking at ways that their dog-like robot can be used for home assistance applications.
This is not the first time that the company has experimented with creating robot dogs. Former models have had names including Spot, BigDog, and Cheetah. Each of these models moved with smooth confidence, as does SpotMini.
The previous model that is closest to SpotMini is Spot. This robot dog weighed approximately 160 pounds and stood at around four feet. A YouTube video of Spot in action was a big hit and has received more than 19 million views. The video showcases the skills of the robot as it navigates stairs and other complex terrains. This increased the interest in Boston Dynamics which is predominantly about people’s fascination with the agility of the robots.
In the past, the creations of Boston Dynamics have had lots of bare metals and exposed wiring. However, SpotMini is a step forward in technological development as it has a sleek and finished design. This is because it is their first commercial product and people do not want to buy a robot with exposed wires and metal.
The SpotMini is smaller than its relative, Spot, as it weighs around 55 pounds and stands at three feet. Its smaller size means that it can go to places that larger robots would find impossible. It also has an optional arm that attaches to the head area and this allows SpotMini to complete functions including opening doors.
The purpose of the robot dog is to offer help in a variety of settings and people could soon find them appearing in many different walks of life. Raibert has explained that this is where the attachable arm comes in really useful as it is intended to support a variety of add-on tools that mean the dog can complete extra tasks. These additional tools have been designed and produced by third party companies.
The first Spot that Boston Dynamics developed was used in experiments involving package delivery. Companies such as Amazon have been testing airborne delivery drones, but there have been many risks highlighted following initial experiments of this. There is the potential that SpotMini could become a low-risk alternative to the drones.
The progress made by Boston Dynamics is despite the setbacks it faced a year ago. In 2013, they were acquired by Google before being sold on to SoftBank, a Japanese robot maker, in 2017. The reason the company was sold on was that Google was uncertain that Boston Dynamics had the capacity to produce marketable products. At that time, Google was taking a new approach to their speculative projects with a greater focus on results.
Regardless of the setbacks that Boston Dynamics has faced in recent years, the company is certainly making a name for itself in the robotics sector at the moment and is now considered one of the leading companies in terms of robotics innovations.
Although it will be next year before SpotMini becomes more widely available, this dynamic robot certainly seems as though it has the potential to be a useful device in many different industries and environments. It has not been made clear what the additional functions of the add-on tools are as yet, therefore, SpotMini may have even more uses than is currently believed.
As Boston Dynamics is not the only company developing various robotic devices, it seems that such devices will become commonplace in the very near future.