Google-owned Boston Dynamics reveals ‘adorable’ puppy robot

Posted on 29 Jun 2016 by Doug Neale
The new SpotMini, with a white external casing - image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.
The new SpotMini, with a white external casing - image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.

Google-owned Boston Dynamics last week announced a smaller pet-like robot with a more domestic feel to its more militant siblings.

The new Boston Dynamics robot, SpotMini, was announced by a video released earlier this month. The video showed the quadruped helping with household chores such as doing the dishes, and throwing rubbish in the bin.

Based on the larger Spot, SpotMini is much smaller and weighs just under 25kg. On full charge, it is able to undertake a variety of tasks for around 90 mins.

Boston Dynamics produced a number of robotic systems. Image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.
The Boston Dynamics previous robotic line up couldn’t look more intimidating – image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.

The new robot appears to target a more consumer-facing market, over the military, industrial outlook of Boston Dynamics earlier lineup.

Where other showcasing videos have displayed robots running at high speeds, and moving warehouse equipment, SpotMini is seen playfully running through a household, even slipping on a banana peel.

In one previous Boston Dynamics video, the humanoid robot, Atlas, was seen being abused by its human masters, sparking concern over a possible Terminator-like retaliation from the machines. The concerns are light-hearted, but the public does question the need for Alphabet to own these intimidating creations. This poor PR for Google may be a reason why Boston Dynamics is now up for sale due to an unlikelihood of it bringing revenue. An attempt to calm the public of their concerns with a more domesticated droid is a good move for the engineers.

“SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built,” a spokesperson for Boston Dynamics said. Though this focus comes with little surprise since BigDog, an earlier design robot from BD, was reportedly rejected from the US military for being too loud.

Google’s interest in robotics

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, also has investments in another robot made by Shaft. This unnamed robot, which looks more like a pair of legs than anything else, is much more docile than Boston Dynamics’ range. In its video, displayed earlier this year in April, the biped is seen walking across rocks and serving food in a grandstand.

Despite all the public awareness of their interest in robots, Alphabet haven’t been quite clear what they intend to do with them. A large corporation with such capabilities automatically raises alarm bells for a lot of sci-fi aware citizens. Will this move to more friendly, domesticated robots ease qualms of a robotic uprising?