Boston Dynamics Is Building Its Robot Dog Empire at a Construction Site
SpotMini is a four-legged dog-like robot that’s just under three feet tall, outfitted with 3D vision and 17 distinct joints. Boston Dynamics, the company that makes SpotMini, wants to be on pace to produce a thousand SpotMini robots annually by July 2019 for commercial use. 0n Thursday night, it released video offering a glimpse of that worker-bot future.
The robot is seen walking around a construction site for Takenaka Corp. in Tokyo; it goes up stairs, makes turns, and avoids obstacles on its own, stopping every so often to scan the area. It navigates obstacles like window holes raised off the floor, orange cones, and steel beams. Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert announced in July that he would like SpotMini to be used in four industries: construction, delivery, security, and home assistance. This video seems to put out which industry Boston Dynamics thinks it can grow the fastest.
Boston Dynamics hasn’t thought much about consumer-facing markets in its history. Early on, it contracted projects for the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and later, it was acquired by Google’s X division, a semi-secret division for advanced projects. The company that spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992 and later landed lucrative military contracts hadn’t had to think about mass production or selling directly to civilian companies before, but it soon would: Softbank Robotics, the Japan-based megafirm, bought Boston Dynamics from Google in June 2017.
“Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution, and Marc (Raibert) and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots,” SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement released with news of the sale.
“We’ve built ten [SpotMini robots] by hand; we’re building 100 with manufacturers at the end of this year, and at the end of 2019, we’re going to begin production at the rate of about 1,000 a year,” Raibert told an audience at a German robotics conference this summer.
If Boston Dynamics is to establish a robot dog empire, the building may begin at a construction site.