Back in June, Boston Dynamics made more than 150 units of its robotic dog Spot available for sale to outside companies and research facilities. The idea was to see what type of real-world applications those companies and facilities would use it for, and get feedback on the capabilities of Spot itself. While Boston Dynamics did not make its robot dog available for individual consumers (though Adam Savage did get his hands on one and paid for it $US74,500 ($104,635), same as the other companies that bought one), it’s rolling out a new addition for good boy Spot: an arm.
Starting in spring 2021, anyone who wants to make their Spot a little more versatile can add an arm to its robotic body, reports Engadget. Although, truthfully, the robo-dog looks more like it has a really, really long neck with a tiny head and a giant mouth. It’s like something you’d see a child draw on a piece of paper: an animal with warped proportions. But the arm sort of completes Spot and makes it more dog-like. And as Boston Dynamics CEO Rob Playter told TechCrunch: “There’s much more to the arm than just hardware. It will ship with an intuitive UI, and be equipped to operate through both telemanipulation and supervised autonomous behaviours.”
With the addition of an arm, Spot can open doors, bring you a drink, and even differentiate between a dirty glass that goes in the dishwasher and a soda can that goes in the recycle bin. But its actual uses will likely be much more complex than that.
“I believe that the mobility of the robot will contribute to the dexterity of the robot in ways that we just don’t get with current fixed factory automation,” Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert said at the Collision from Home conference this past June.
Spot is also getting a charging dock where it will automatically go back to when it senses its battery is running low on power. Like a Roomba. Or a drone. Or The Borg. Got to refuel with electricity!
Currently, Spot is being used in various industries, including construction, mining, and healthcare, to make things safer for the employees that work in those fields. We’re still many, many years away from being able to go out and buy a version of Spot for the home, and even then I bet it will still be equally as expensive. But the idea of having a robot around the house to help with cleaning or other mundane tasks is kind of neat.
And we’re probably headed in that direction anyway. First came the dishwasher to clean our dishes, and then will come a robot that will load the dishes into the dishwasher for you. But for the time being, putting Spot to use in work environments that can benefit from it the most seems like the right way to go.