You may remember robotic firm Boston Dynamics’ four-legged military robot Spot. The company has just revealed it's taken the design of the 160-pound machine, which was created under a DARPA contract as a reconnaissance asset, and shrunk it down to a household-friendly sized contraption called SpotMini.
One of the issues with the Alphabet-owned organization's previous robots is that the gas-powered engines and hydraulics make them incredibly loud. With the SpotMini’s reduced 55-pound weight (65 pounds with the arm attached) and all-electric movement system, it doesn't sound like a rusty chainsaw as it walks around your home.
As you can see in the video, Boston Dynamics has attached a gripping arm and some fake eyes to SpotMini to enable it to perform household tasks and appear more friendly. But it still looks a bit like a terrifying dog/giraffe hybrid creature from a horror movie about futuristic machines taking over the world.
Looks aside, SpotMini does show some impressive abilities. It handles climbing the stairs with aplomb, ducks under the table with ease, navigates furniture without any problems, but comes crashing to the floor the second it encounters a banana skin.
Boston Dynamics says SpotMini’s internal battery lets it run for 90 minutes on a charge, and that it "performs some tasks autonomously but often uses a human for high-level guidance." It's able to carry out its autonomous duties using its stereoscopic depth cameras, a solid-state gyro, and various sensors.
The end of the video shows what could be something closer to the final, consumer version of the SpotMini. The plastic coated white robot wouldn’t look out of place marching alongside a stormtrooper.
Make sure to check out the additional section at the end of the video. Here we see SpotMini handing a soda to its human owner, deciding it doesn’t want to be enslaved anymore, and attempting to attack its master before falling in a heap on the floor. Or maybe it just didn’t let go of the can properly, causing it to stagger about.
It was reported back in March that Alphabet is reportedly trying to sell Boston Dynamics as its lack of marketable products mean it’s unlikely to generate a revenue over the next few years. Both Toyota and Amazon are said to have shown an interest in the company, and perhaps, with a bit more work, the SpotMini could be what persuades them that an acquisition would be worthwhile.