Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Spot, Boston Dynamics' robot dog, is finally for sale

The robotics company is allowing select companies to lease the semi-autonomous robot.

Spot
Boston Dynamics
  • Spot is a quadruped robot that uses a suite of sensors to navigate tough terrain.
  • Although it can perform actions autonomously, the robot requires a human operator to complete more complex tasks.
  • The consumer robot market is expected to grow by $30 billion over the next several years.


You might have seen Spot — the four-legged, semi-autonomous robot designed by Boston Dynamics — in video clips dancing to Bruno Mars or hauling a truck across a parking lot. Or maybe you recognize the robot dog from that one very disturbing post-apocalyptic episode of "Black Mirror".

Now, a handful of people will see Spot when they go to work: Boston Dynamics has begun leasing Spot to select companies who could benefit from having a robot helper in the field.

"Early customers are already testing Spot to monitor construction sites, provide remote inspection at gas, oil and power installations, and in public safety," Boston Dynamics said in the description of a new video posted to YouTube.

Spot is able to navigate rough terrain and self-right itself after falling, and companies have the option to install different modules onto the robot: a methane detector, mesh radio module, a robotic claw, and a LIDAR rig. Spot's other specs include:

  • Top speed: 3 mph
  • Average runtime: 90 minutes
  • Carrying capacity: 30 pounds

Still, Spot isn't close to being fully autonomous, and completing more complex tasks, like opening a door, requires a human operator with a controller. But the robot can perform some tasks autonomously, such as retracing its steps through a worksite after a human has already guided it through the site.

There's also the undeniable fact that — despite its dancing skills and vaguely dog-like appearance — Spot is kind of creepy and uncanny; it moves precisely, unnaturally, and its canine frame suddenly freezes when it's no longer needed. But uncanniness aside, Boston Dynamics said safety is a priority, and Spot is currently only used in closed, controlled spaces.

"Fundamentally, we don't want to see Spot doing anything that harms people, even in a simulated way," Michael Perry, VP of business development at Boston Dynamics, told The Verge. "That's something we're pretty firm on when we talk to customers."

However, one concern is that Spot wasn't really designed to recognize and interpret specific things in its environment — most notably, humans. So, while Spot is able to navigate rough terrain with exceptional skill, it likely sees humans as just another obstacle on its map.

"Boston Dynamics has always been strong in mechanics and controls, like being able to shift the robot's weight properly," Henny Admoni, who works on Human-Robot interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, told The Verge. "But robots operating in human environments won't really have the option of avoiding humans. Integrating Human-Robot Interaction skills into development at an early stage is probably going to lead to greater success than trying to retrofit human interaction into existing systems."

It's still unclear exactly how much it costs to lease Spot, but Boston Dynamics told CNET:

"Our general guidance is that the total cost of the early adopter program lease will be less than the price of a car — but how nice a car will depend on the number of Spots leased and how long the customer will be leasing the robot."

In terms of dog-like robots, Spot is in many ways the opposite of Aibo, a series developed by Sony since 1999. Unlike Spot, Aibo is designed to be a robotic companion, and many owners say it's not that far off from owning a real dog. The most recent model, ERS-1000, grows smarter over time and actually changes its attitude and level of affection based on the positive or negative reinforcement you show it.

By 2022, the global consumer robot market is projected to grow from $3.8 billion to $34.1 billion, according to a report by research firm P&S Intelligence. The report predicts companion robots like Aibo will be the fastest growing category.

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
Keep reading Show less

Yale scientists restore cellular function in 32 dead pig brains

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
Keep reading Show less

Face mask study reveals worst material for blocking COVID-19

A study published Friday tested how well 14 commonly available face masks blocked the emission of respiratory droplets as people were speaking.

Fischer et al.
Coronavirus
  • The study tested the efficacy of popular types of face masks, including N95 respirators, bandanas, cotton-polypropylene masks, gaiters, and others.
  • The results showed that N95 respirators were most effective, while wearing a neck fleece (aka gaiter) actually produced more respiratory droplets than wearing no mask at all.
  • Certain types of homemade masks seem to be effective at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

You want to stop child abuse? Here's how you can actually help.

Sharing QAnon disinformation is harming the children devotees purport to help.

Photo: Atjanan Charoensiri / Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The conspiracy theory, QAnon, is doing more harm than good in the battle to end child trafficking.
  • Foster youth expert, Regan Williams, says there are 25-29k missing children every year, not 800k, as marketed by QAnon.
  • Real ways to help abused children include donating to nonprofits, taking educational workshops, and becoming a foster parent.
Keep reading Show less
Strange Maps

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast