You’re probably familiar with Spot, Boston Dynamics’ highly advanced, nightmare-inducing robot dog. And while it went on sale last year, few of us have an extra $US74,500 ($95,554) lying around to buy one. However, Chinese firm Unitree Robotics has a similar quadruped bot that’s not only a fraction of the size, but it also starts at a mere $3,463. For an advanced robot dog, that’s actually pretty dang affordable.
Unitree’s Go1 is also technically impressive. In a video, you can see the bot walking alongside its “owner” while also automatically avoiding obstacles in its path. Unitree calls it an “Intelligent side-follow” system, and it supposedly utilises “patented wireless vector positioning and control” tech. It’s also got what Unitree dubs a “super sensory system,” or five sets of fish-eye stereo depth cameras and three sets of hypersonic sensors. The company also says the Go1 features a new power joint with a heat pipe cooling system built-in. All-in-all, it looks impressive, considering it doesn’t break when doing a backflip off a tower of crates or when some fool yanks one up and swings it around by its rear leg.
The video also shows the Go1 running, yes running alongside a person with speeds ranging from 2.5 metres per second to 3.7m/s, depending on the model. So yes, so long as you keep to running at a moderate speed this lil guy can keep up. The Go1 is also shown lugging around a small basket of groceries and a water bottle on its back. Unitree’s spec sheet says the bot’s payload ranges from 3kg to 5kg, again depending on model. That’s not too shabby. We don’t really know anything about battery life, however.
There are three versions of the Go1, with the entry-level Go1 Air costing $3,463. The mid-tier Go1 is a little more expensive at $4,489 but supports human recognition, has a few more sensors and better processing power, and runs a bit faster. The most expensive version, the Go1 Edu, starts at $10,902 and is the beefiest in terms of components and also comes with 4G/5G and Lidar, among other features. Is it still expensive? Well, yeah. But when you consider how much Spot costs and that Sony’s cute-but-still-kinda-useless Aibo robot dog is $3,720 (not including cloud subscription fees)… This is surprisingly affordable, if perhaps a little too good to be true.
Still, it isn’t that expensive when you consider the lifetime costs of a real dog. According to the American Kennel Club, a medium-sized dog with an average life expectancy of 13 years will cost an average of $20,242. Forbes puts the number much, much higher at anywhere between $2,014 a year, or $106,456 for city-dwellers over the lifetime of a large dog. To be fair, a robot dog would likely require some kind of maintenance, but at least you can avoid the dog walking fees, boarding, grooming, vet visits, dental cleanings, medications, pet insurance, and surgeries. On the downside, the Go1 doesn’t look like a good cuddle buddy.