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

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.


Russia to send ‘Fedor’ its first humanoid robot into space

Updated 22 August 2019

Russia to send ‘Fedor’ its first humanoid robot into space

  • Fedor was to blast off in a Soyuz rocket at 6:38 am Moscow time (0338 GMT) from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome
  • Fedor is not the first robot to go into space

MOSCOW: Russia was set to launch on Thursday an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station.
Named Fedor, for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research with identification number Skybot F850, the robot is the first ever sent up by Russia.
Fedor was to blast off in a Soyuz rocket at 6:38 am Moscow time from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, dock with the space station on Saturday and stay till September 7.
The Soyuz spacecraft is normally manned on such trips, but on Thursday no humans will be traveling in order to test a new emergency rescue system.
Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor will sit in a specially adapted pilot’s seat.

The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands one meter 80 centimeters tall (5 foot 11 inches) and weighs 160 kilograms (353 lbs).
Fedor has Instagram and Twitter accounts that describe it as learning new skills such as opening a bottle of water. In the station, it will trial those manual skills in very low gravity.
“That’s connecting and disconnecting electric cables, using standard items from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher,” the Russian space agency’s director for prospective programs and science, Alexander Bloshenko, said in televised comments.
Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth carry out tasks while they are strapped into an exoskeleton.
Such robots will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as space walks, Bloshenko told RIA Novosti state news agency.
On the website of one of the state backers of the project, the Foundation of Advanced Research Projects, Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, de-mining and tricky rescue missions.
On board, the robot will perform tasks supervised by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, who joined the ISS last month, and will wear an exoskeleton in a series of experiments scheduled for later this month.

Robonaut 2, Kirobo
Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin showed pictures of the robot to President Vladimir Putin this month, saying it will be “an assistant to the crew.”
“In the future we plan that this machine will also help us conquer deep space,” he added.
Fedor is not the first robot to go into space.
In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors and a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.
It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.
In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS’s first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations — albeit only in Japanese.