Boston Dynamics Reveals Its Spot Robot Has Been Delivering Packages

by Monica Hunter-Hart

At the 2017 TED Conference on Tuesday, founder and CEO of Boston Dynamics Marc Raibert discussed how far his company has come toward creating “robots that can do what people and animals do.” Pretty far, it seems: One of BD’s creations has been delivering packages like a pro, as seen in a video Raibert debuted at the event.

Obviously robots aren’t yet as skilled overall as humans or animals, but when it comes to certain specific tasks, they’re close. Raibert showed off some of BD’s most incredible machines in a series of videos.

One robot shown has a run similar to that of a cheetah. Then there’s a humanoid that can move boxes at two-thirds the speed of a person; one dog-like robot that can easily walk in snow ten inches deep; and another like a dog, named “Spot,” who can deliver mail. Spot can walk up stairs and open doors while holding packages.

SpotMini, Spot’s appropriately named smaller variation, also made an appearance on the TED stage. Audiences watched it run around, dance, and even deliver Raibert a can of soda, something we previously saw it do in December. Back when SpotMini was debuted in June, we also watched it load a dishwasher.

SpotMini, the robot dog.

Bret Hartman / TED

Aside from showing off Boston Dynamics’ coolest toys, Raibert went into some predictions for the future of robotics.

He speculated that “it won’t be too long” before robots like his are commonly found in households. He said that primary uses of such machines would be assisting the aging and the sick, as well as going into “dirty places” around the world — he cited Fukushima — to “help remediate” them.

TED Flickr

SpotMini is pretty neat. But no matter how cool we make our machines, they can still have negative effects upon our societies — some potential problems they may cause were pointed out this week by Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma.

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