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.


Australia says foreign government behind cyberattack on lawmakers

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (AFP)
Updated 10 min 49 sec ago
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Australia says foreign government behind cyberattack on lawmakers

  • Morrison did not name any suspects, but analysts have said China, Russia and Iran were the most likely culprits

SYDNEY: A cyberattack on Australian lawmakers that breached the networks of major political parties was probably carried out by a foreign country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, without naming any suspects.
As Australia heads for an election due by May, lawmakers were told this month told to urgently change their passwords after the cyber intelligence agency detected an attack on the national parliament’s computer network.
The hackers breached the networks of Australia’s major political parties, Morrison said, as he issued an initial assessment by investigators.
“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” he told parliament.
“We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, Liberal, Labor and Nationals have also been affected.”
Morrison did not reveal what information was accessed, but he said there was no evidence of election interference.
Australians will return to the polls by May.
Morrison did not name any suspects, but analysts have said China, Russia and Iran were the most likely culprits.
“When you consider motivation, you would have to say that China is the leading suspect, while you wouldn’t rule out Russia either,” said Fergus Hanson, head of the International Cyber Policy Center at think-tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“It is the honey-pot of juicy political gossip that has been hoovered up. Emails showing everything from the dirty laundry of internal fights through to who supported a policy could be on display.”
Ties with China have deteriorated since 2017, after Canberra accused Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs. Both countries have since sought to mend relations, but Australia remains wary of China.
Tension rose this month after Australia rescinded the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman, just months after barring Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to its 5G broadband network.
Officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency covertly monitored computers of US Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and campaign committees, and stole large amounts of data, US investigators have concluded.