Speaking at TechCrunch’s TC Sessions: Robotics event on Thursday, founder of Boston Dynamics Marc Raibert announced that the firm’s dog-like SpotMini robot will be available for sale by 2019. The robot was first introduced last year.
“The SpotMini robot is one that was motivated by thinking about what could go in an office, in a space more accessible for business applications, and then, the home eventually,” Raibert said at the event.
The first 100 SpotMinis
According to the company’s website, the SpotMini is “a nimble robot that handles objects, climbs stairs, and will operate in offices, homes and outdoors.” The company announced the first 100 SpotMinis will be built later this year for commercial purposes and be available for purchase by 2019.
The robotics company started off in 1992 as “a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”. It was at the college that the company introduced the first animal-like computers.
After briefly being owned by Alphabet Corp., Boston Dynamics was acquired by SoftBank last year. SoftBank has already introduced a robot to market: their humanoid-like Pepper.
Today, Boston Dynamics claims to combine “the principles of dynamic control and balance with sophisticated mechanical designs, cutting-edge electronics, and software for perception, navigation, and intelligence.” Their goal is to build “machines that both break boundaries and work in the real world.”
The SpotMini is a smaller version of Spot, a robot launched since 2015. The new version weighs only around 66 pounds and has a battery life of an average of 90 minutes.
For those wondering what the use of such a robot may be, Rainfield discussed possible applications at the TechCrunch event. One example he gave was that of someone in a wheelchair who may want to go hiking.
The founder added that the company receives constant letters regarding possible future applications for these animal-like robots. He stated that although they are not actively working on these applications, they do present possibilities.
“Robotics isn't like some fields were the applications are all worked out and well known. We are simultaneously figuring out what the use cases are while developing the technology,” explained Raibert.
Raibert also discussed his vision of making robotics “bigger than the internet.” “It is going to take a lot of time to get to bigger than the internet but I do think the impact of robots could be vast,” said Raibert.
However, media coverage so far has been less than flattering. Gizmodo called the robot a piece of impending apocalypse while other outlets referred to the machines as creepy, terrifying and Mirror-like, in reference to the dystopian science fiction series.
CNet also published an article rating Boson Dynamics robots' by "Robocalypse threat." "I've seen enough sci-fi to know we're just one accidental sentience experience away from obsolescence," stated the author.
Threatening or not, these robots will be hitting stores near you soon. Those fearing the Robocalypse can take solace in the fact that, at least for a few years, these robots will likely be too expensive to be commonplace.