Boston Dynamics, the Massachsetts-based engineering and robotics design company, is best known for the development of BigDog, a four-legged robot designed for the U.S. military. The company recently released a new video showcasing its SpotMini robot which also resembles a mechanical dog, which has sparked a lot of intrigue online. The robot is quirky and entertaining, but it’s unclear as to what the company plans to do with it. Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google X for $500 million in 2013, but has since been sold.
The Spot Mini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot, weighing 55 lbs (65 lbs including its arm). It’s an all-electric (no hydraulics) robot that runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. “SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built,” says the company. “It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation.”
The purpose of the new video released by the company was not only to showcase its SpotMini robot, but also to introduce its intriguing features and capabilities to the public; such as being able to pick up a glass and putting it in the dishwasher, and recycling an empty soda can. The robot even attempts a creepy dance routine which is oddly entertaining and satisfying to witness.
More of the SpotMini’s capabilities showcased in the video include its ability to crouch underneath a taller robot, navigate through what appears to be a dining room, walk upstairs, and even sprint through a parking lot. But arguably SpotMini’s best feature is its ability to keep its ‘head’ completely still while its body moves up and down. Boston Dynamics outfitted the robot’s companion retractable arm with a set of googly eyes so that the end of the arm looks like a face. The robot is able to keep its ‘head’ almost perfectly still while the rest of its body bobs up and down.
The video also proves how the SpotMini robot can survive a dramatic fall when it slips on a banana skin. In a bizarre scene, as the robot turns a corner to go up a flight of stairs, its foot catches a banana skin and it then tumbles to the floor. But it’s not over for the robot… Interestingly enough, the SpotMini is able to get itself back onto its feet and ascend the staircase. Incredible!
The SpotMini represents another leap forward in robotics technology for the Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics engineers, but it’s unclear as to what they plan to do with their new robot. These uncertainties are said to be what led Google to finally part ways with the company. Nevertheless, the video of SpotMini is entertaining and offers an intriguing insight as to what the future could look like with intelligent robots by our side.