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Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Dog Now Available for Companies and Police Departments

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by Wanguba Muriuki · 4 min read

Boston Dynamics has launched the sale of its Spot Robot Dog but it still insists that the dog is not intended to be used as a weapon though their target markets are police departments.

Boston Dynamics announced that it is introducing its first major market to the world for sale. The company has been talking since June about a public release of its Spot robot dog that was previously known as SpotMini. On September 24, the company published some highlights of what is to be expected from their latest project.

The robot is not going on sale immediately but companies with good ideas and deep pockets can get one. Thus, the odds of spotting a Spot in the wild have gone higher. The capabilities of this dog are as advertised in June but they feel much better when experienced in person.

Project Highlights

The Spot can go where it is told, avoid obstacles, and even maintain its balance under extreme circumstances. These are the necessary skills needed when navigating an unknown environment. This dog can carry up to four hardware modules on its back. Thus it gives the companies a way to swap in every skill that the robot needs for any particular job.

The owner can build in a methane detector if they want it to check for gas leaks. If one needs connectivity over long distances, they can attach a mesh radio module. Boston Dynamics is already outfitting units using LIDAR rigs from Velodyne to create 3D maps of indoor spaces. LIDAR rigs are favorite components for self-driving car projects.

The robot can also maneuver in the outdoor spaces since it is designed to also work in the rain. Spot comes programmed with dance moves into its offboard computing module for entertainment purposes. Entertainment is slowly becoming a big market for the Spot.

In that context, the manufacturer is working in conjunction with the innovation lab at Cirque du Soleil to determine how Spot may cope when it gets onstage. During the testing stage, it is advisable to keep at least two meters away from the robot to avoid pinches from its joints.

Also, during the testing stage, people were instructed to stay away from the robot while climbing stairs to avoid injuries in case it lost its balance. However, both measures proved to be just precautions by the manufacturer rather than Spot being hazardous. As a reminder, this robot dog was not designed to interact with humans.

Currently, Boston Dynamics is focusing on how the robot may prove useful in closed and controlled spaces. Thus, it is highly unlikely that these Spot robots will be seen in public anytime soon.

What Will Be Spot Used For?

The company stated that it does not intend to use Spot as a weapon in spite of its military origin. The VP of business development at Boston Dynamics, Michael Perry said:

“Fundamentally, we don’t want to see Spot doing anything that harms people, even in a simulated way. That’s something we’re pretty firm on when we talk to customers.”

Although the project is still targeting police departments, Boston Dynamics says that Spot will just be used for disposing of bombs and other hazardous materials. It is expected to work along the lines of the other existing police robots.

Spot is still far from full autonomy despite the impression of the advertisement videos. The robot dog is designed with athletic intelligence and not interpretive intelligence. The Spot model of the world around it is quite shallow and features mostly obstacles, footholds, and pre-programmed routes.

According to academic roboticists like Henny Admoni, working on Human-Robot interaction at Carnegie Mellon University:

“Boston Dynamics has always been strong in mechanics and controls, like being able to shift the robot’s weight properly. 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.”

However, Boston Dynamics has taken a different route in designing the robot. Spot’s interaction with humans remains a major mystery for the project’s future. But currently, the company hopes that there is a lot of work available for the robot to do in the human-free spaces.

If this program takes off, the Spot project will offer a new way for computer programs to interact with the physical world.

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Wanguba Muriuki

Wanguba Muriuki is a content crafter passionate about putting everything into writing. He is passionate about Blockchain and Traveling. He is also an experienced creative and technical writer. Everything and everyone has a story to tell. What better way to capture the real story than in words.