The founder of Boston Dynamics, Marc Raibert, announced today what next stands for Spot, the company's four-legged friend, who can climb stairs and cross rough terrain. In a few months, Boston Dynamics Spot will sell a robotic arm to companies interested in mobile manipulation systems. And finally, the company wants to sell spot for home use.
Last week Boston Dynamics opened commercial Spot sales. This was the company's first online sale and the first time that companies could buy their robots directly. Companies can buy the Spot Explorer developer kit for $ 74,500 directly on the company's website (this price must be lowered if Spot is to be displayed at home). Spot's modular platform (mounting rails, payload connections and SDK) distinguishes Spot from other robots. The company now sells add-ons from $ 1,650 for an additional charger to $ 34,570 for a lidar and camera system. The robotic arm that Boston Dynamics has been teasing for years is not yet on sale.
Raibert shared the latest news at the Collision from Home conference today. The first part of his lecture was a repetition of his previous appearances, among other things at the Web Summit in November (see our detailed interview). But when the sale of spot advertising began and COVID-19 opened the door for autonomous technologies such as drones and robots, Raibert had a lot more to add.
Nowadays, Boston Dynamics customers mainly use Spot to get employees out of the way and do dangerous jobs so people don't have to. But Raibert imagines Spot taking care of the disabled and the elderly and helping the public at home with everyday tasks. He also stressed that Boston Dynamics hopes other companies will help build the spot ecosystem.
"Part of Spot's idea as a platform is that we won't do all of the development," said Raibert. "We will work with other people who have their own ideas."
Spot with a robotic arm
Spot has cameras on the front, back and sides with which it can navigate, travel autonomously, move omnidirectionally, go up and down stairs and cross a terrain. The robot travels at a speed of approximately 3 miles per hour, which is roughly the same as human walking speed, and even has a so-called “chicken head” mode. That is, it can decouple the movement of his hand from his body, just as many animals can stabilize a part while the rest of the body is moving. You can see the Boston Dynamics demo years ago in this video. 48 seconds in::
This decoupling from the body is the key to a useful mobile robot with one arm.
"The next thing to be seen on the future spot is that we will be making it available with a robotic arm in a few months," said Raibert. “We have prototypes in the works, but we don't have them available as a product yet. As soon as you have an arm on a robot, it becomes a mobile manipulation system. It really only opens a wide horizon for the possibilities of robots. I believe that the mobility of the robot will add to the skill of the robot in a way that we simply cannot achieve with the current factory automation. "
Spot in the home
When a company buys a spot, it has to agree to it Terms and conditionslike any other major product purchase. One of the most important lines in the term says: “Spot is an amazing robot, but it is not certified safe for home use or for use near children or anyone else who may not be able to assess the dangers associated with its operation. "
But that won't be the case forever.
"We also have a project that many of you will be very interested in and that will clean up your house," said Raibert. "Spot is not yet available for home use, but it will one day." I think you'll love the idea that the robot can be brought into a room and uses its vision system to identify your kids' clothes around, or maybe the clothes lying around. And then look around and go over there, grab it and put it in the laundry basket like this robot does in this prototype. "
This robot arm is particularly practical for the laundry application. Raibert said that Spot is already able to do such laundry itself without an engineer guiding it through the process. Spot relies on Computer Vision in the cloud to determine whether a particular object it is looking at should be placed in the basket or left where it is.
Raibert also showed how Spot delivered parcels to a house and found that the robot could possibly be used for the last 50 to 100 meters on the shipping journey.
"I don't know anything about you, but when I get a package today I'm worried that the driver of the car was reasonably careful in washing his hands and wearing his mask and all that stuff. And I'm not going near him Wouldn't it be nice if a robot did the deliveries so I couldn't worry? "