Robotics firm Boston Dynamics has made an art of releasing viral-ready videos of its robots that are once captivating and terrifying. Now Spot, the robotic quadruped that's starred in recent videos, is available for sale commercially.
Spot made headlines recently enforcing social distancing at a park in Singapore, which was widely decried as a hair-raising preview of a robotic police state and a gross overuse of technology. As my colleague covered, the Massachusetts State Police have also entertained using Spot to intercede in dangerous situations.
Security, however, is just one potential application. Designed as a task-agnostic autonomous platform, Spot's utility extends beyond security and defense into areas like pipeline and infrastructure inspection and search and rescue. Under an early adopter program, Boston Dynamics previously released 150 Spot robots to businesses and research institutions, where they were used in power generation facilities, factory floors, and construction sites, to name a few.
In one deployment, a construction firm in Canada used a Spot robot to automate the capture of thousands of images weekly on a 500,000 square foot building site, creating an ongoing record of progress and enabling the builders to identify growing problems and inefficiencies early.
Spot was also used by a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team in DARPA's recent Subterranean Challenge Competition, which put robots into unforgiving underground environments. Using spot, along with a range of integrated perception and communication tools, the team won the competition's urban circuit, demonstrating the capabilities of the platform.
As with many robots, a big selling point has been safety. Spot's agility, payload capacity, and advanced sensing should allow it to replace humans in certain high-risk environments.
"At Boston Dynamics, we have spent decades creating and refining robots with advanced mobility, dexterity, and intelligence because we believe agile robots can solve a broad range of real-world problems," Marc Raibert, chairman and founder of Boston Dynamics, said in a company release. "The combination of Spot's sophisticated software and high-performance mechanical design enables the robot to augment difficult or dangerous human work."
After the successful implementation of the early adopter program, which offered only short-term leases of the hardware, businesses can now purchase their very own Spot online. Spot costs just under $75,000, which is actually quite a decent price for a robotic super dog ready to do your bidding.
"Now you can use Spot to increase human safety in environments and tasks where traditional automation hasn't been successful."