Walking robot maker prepares to unleash its dog-like machine

In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Boston Dynamics Chief Executive Marc Raibert speaks about his four-legged robot SpotMini during a SoftBank World presentation at a hotel in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)
Updated 12 May 2018
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Walking robot maker prepares to unleash its dog-like machine

  • Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert said Friday that his company plans to begin selling the dog-like SpotMini robot next year.
  • SpotMini gets around with the help of cameras on its front, sides and one mounted on its rear.

BERKELEY, California: A robotics company known for its widely shared videos of nimble, legged robots opening doors or walking through rough terrain is preparing to sell some after more than a quarter century of research.
Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert said Friday that his company plans to begin selling the dog-like SpotMini robot next year, likely to businesses for use as a camera-equipped security guard.
But he thinks other applications for the four-legged contraption will be likely developed by other companies, because the robot has a flat platform to allow other equipment with its own computer programming to be easily mounted on top of it.
SpotMini gets around with the help of cameras on its front, sides and one mounted on its rear — a position that Raibert calls the “butt-cam.”
Boston Dynamics already has made 10 SpotMinis with plans to manufacture about 100 more for additional testing this year before going into mass production by the middle of next year, Raibert said. No price has been set for the robot yet, though Raibert said making the latest prototype costs about one-tenth the price of earlier versions.
Raibert unveiled the SpotMini plans at the University of California, Berkeley, during a TechCrunch conference focused on the rise of robotics and its potential to perform a wide range of tasks and jobs now handled by humans.
Founded in 1992, Boston Dynamics rarely reveals its plans except by posting YouTube videos that have impressed and terrified people. Most of Boston Dynamics’ robotics research had been applied in the military until Google bought the Waltham, Massachusetts, company in 2013. Japanese tech giant SoftBank bought Boston Dynamics from Google last year.
Although Boston Dynamics never released a commercial robot under Google, Raibert credited his company’s former owner for helping it to start thinking of ways to bring its technology to a broader market.
Toward that end, he also showed the conference a video of Atlas, a two-legged robot that has learned how to sort and pick up packages, jump up and off blocks, jog and perform back flips. He said Boston Dynamics still hasn’t figured out how to make money from Atlas yet.
“This machine is really trying to push the boundary of the future,” Raibert said.
He also mentioned the possibility of building robots to help with construction projects, though he didn’t provide any further details about that ambition on Friday.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
cl/sst