Boston Dynamics, famous for its videos of pushing robots over and watching them struggle to get up, has been busy. At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London on Monday, founder Marc Raibert shared the company’s progress, gave hints about when we can expect the quadruped robots to reach the market, and gave a demonstration of dog-like household companion SpotMini.
The company debuted SpotMini back in June. The tiny bot weighs just 55 pounds, but it’s been designed for traversing the most treacherous of household layouts to complete tasks like clearing up crockery, loading the dishwasher and fetching a beer with the help of its robot hand.
In many ways, SpotMini is the Roomba taken to a whole new level. iRobot’s self-driving vacuum cleaner has taken the world by storm, with CEO Colin Angle claiming that one fifth of the world’s vacuum cleaners are Roombas. But where the Roomba keeps the floors tidy, Boston Dynamics answers the age-old question that has plagued fraternity houses for decades: whose plate is this, and who’s going to clean it up?
Unfortunately, the technology still needs a bit of refinement. SpotMini seems to struggle under stage lights, so any playwrights looking to use one in their next work may want to avoid for now:
It’s impressive tech, but right now there’s little in the way of a roadmap or release date for consumers. It’s something Boston Dynamics is starting to consider though, and Raibert hinted that a public launch could occur at some point in the future.
“SpotMini has a diversity of capability,” Raibert said on Monday. “Its mobility is very good, its manipulation skills are coming along, the vision is pretty good. So we’re starting to turn the corner to think about how to make it a product.”
Hopefully that materializes into a product that consumers can buy, but until then, it seems you’ll have to clear up the kitchen the old-fashioned way.