US robotics firm Boston Dynamics has revealed a new product line for Spot, its flagship robotic dog that costs a whopping $75,000 (about £60,000).
The new products include a self-charging version of the dog, called Enterprise Spot, as well as Spot Arm – a fifth limb that can grasp, carry and drag different objects.
Also announced is a web-based remote operations software, called Scout, that lets operators control a fleet of Spot dogs from a virtual control room in work-based settings such as storage facilities and warehouses.
Spot, which is suited for indoor or outdoor use, can map its environment, sense and avoid obstacles, climb stairs and open doors.
It can undertake hazardous tasks in a variety of inhospitable environments such as nuclear plants, offshore oil fields and construction sites.
The nimble, four-legged robotic dog was under development by Boston Dynamics for years before it was finally made
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Boston Dynamics said potential customers can purchase Spot Enterprise, Scout and Spot Arm via its sales team, without disclosing prices.
‘Since first launching Spot, we have worked closely with our customers to identify how the robot could best support their mission critical applications,’ said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.
‘Our customers want reliable data collection in remote, hazardous, and dynamic worksites.
‘We developed the new Spot products with these needs in mind, and with the goal of making it easy to regularly and remotely perform critical inspections, improving safety and operations.’
Video released by the secretive US firm on Monday shows Spot picking up dirty laundry using Spot Arm – although Spot is not intended for domestic use (yet)
WHAT’S BEEN REVEALED BY BOSTON DYNAMICS?
Spot Enterprise is a new version of Spot that comes equipped with self-charging capabilities and a dock.
This allows it to perform longer inspection tasks and data collection missions with little to no human interaction.
Boston Dynamics says: ‘Spot Enterprise leverages upgraded hardware for improved safety, communications, and behaviour in remote environments.
‘These upgrades expand the range that autonomous missions can cover, extend Wi-Fi support, add flexibility to Spot’s payload ports, and enable users to quickly offload large data sets collected during the robot’s mission.’
Spot Arm is the dog’s fifth limb, which has allowed it to open doors in past promotional videos but was not included in the final product released in 2020.
The add-on arm can manually or semi-autonomously grasp, lift, carry, place, and drag a wide variety of objects.
Boston Dynamics says: ‘It is also capable of manipulating objects with constrained movement and can open and close valves, pull levers and turn handles and knobs in coordination with its body to open standard push and pull doors.’
Scout is Boston Dynamics’ web-based software that enables operators to control their fleet of Spots from a virtual control room.
Operators can use Scout to take Spot anywhere a person could go on-site, allowing them to inspect critical equipment or hazardous areas from afar.
The software is designed with a simple user interface to run pre-programmed autonomous missions or manually control the robot.
This lets it perform various tasks such as walking or posing the robot to capture images and thermal data of obscured gauges or pipes, using Spot’s CAM+IR thermal imaging.
Spot Arm has already been shown off by the firm in video footage released on Monday, as a sneak preview.
The robotic fifth limb, which has been teased in promotional videos from the firm for years, was not included in the final product last year– but it will now be offered as an add-on.
Video released by the secretive US firm shows Spot picking up dirty laundry, using a skipping rope, doing the gardening and operating machinery in a warehouse using the new fifth limb.
With the three new additions to the product line, Boston Dynamics says its giving Spot a greater ability ‘to perform autonomous, remote inspections and data collection’ as well as manual tasks.
‘Now that Spot has an arm in addition to legs and cameras, it can do mobile manipulation,’ Boston Dynamics said.
‘It finds and picks up objects (trash), tidies up the living room, opens doors, operates switches and valves, tends the garden, and generally has fun.
‘Motion of the hand, arm and body are automatically coordinated to simplify manipulation tasks and expand the arm’s workspace, making its reach essentially unbounded.’
As demonstrated in the video, the arm will have six degrees of freedom with multiple rotating joints for maximum flexibility.
At the end of the arm is a ‘hand’ that can clamp down on objects and hold them firmly to perform various tasks – which also includes holding a piece of chalk to draw on the pavement.
The footage also shows the hand holding a cinder block, with the pooch having enough strength to drag it along the ground.
Spot, the quadruped robot has been developed by Boston Dynamics. The firm says all of its sales will be subject to terms and conditions that dictate the ‘beneficial use’ of its robots
Spot was announced by Boston Dynamics back in 2016 and underwent various trials before being released commercially on June 17, 2020.
Shortly after its launch last year, footage emerged of
In footage captured by Texas-based YouTuber LabPadre, the Boston Dynamics dog can be seen trotting through thick clouds of nitrogen next to the wreckage.
Elon Musk went to the trouble of setting up a dog house for the new robotic SpaceX employee
Spot has specifically been designed for business use – in fact, when a business buys a Spot unit, they have to acknowledge a stipulation in the terms and conditions that ‘it’s not certified safe for in-home use or intended for use near children’.
However, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert previously said that Spot will soon be available for home use.
‘We also have a project that I’m sure many of you are going to be very interested in, and that’s cleaning up your house,’ he
‘Now, Spot isn’t available yet for home use, but someday it will be.
‘I think you’re going to love the idea that the robot can be put in a room and use its vision system to identify your kids’ clothing that’s been lying around.’
Boston Dynamics’ CEO Rob Playter told
Black Mirror’s ‘Metalhead’ was the fifth episode of the fourth season that was filmed entirely in black and white
Boston Dynamics’ technology is probably best known for inspiring a standout episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’.
In the 2017 episode, called ‘Metalhead’, people in the near future flee from an army of robotic dogs that ruthlessly hunt down humans.
But not to worry – Boston Dynamics reassured that it will not support uses of Spot that ‘harm or intimidate’ people which includes banning the attachment of weapons.
The firm hasn’t ruled out selling Spot to security firms, for example, or further law enforcement trials, however.
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