SpotMini, the doglike robot that struck fear into the hearts of many when a viral video showed it opening a door, is slated for commercial sale in the not-so-distant future.
Marc Raibert, founder of the company Boston Dynamics, which created the robots, made the announcement Friday at the TechCrunch Sessions robotics conference at the University of California, Berkeley. Raibert said the company intends to manufacture 100 SpotMinis this year as a “prelude” to a “higher rate of production” in preparation for selling the product next year. He didn’t say how much the robot might cost.
The SpotMini made headlines in February after Boston Dynamics published a video titled “Hey Buddy, Can You Give Me a Hand?” The video shows one of the four-legged, yellow-and-black robots with an extendable claw opening a door to allow its companion, a fellow bot lacking the claw, to go through.
The video came just three months after a Wall Street Journal article, headlined “How to Survive a Robot Apocalypse: Just Close the Door,” noted that no robots in a government-sponsored contest had been able to open doors.
Raibert said at the conference that the company designed SpotMini “by thinking about what could go in an office — in a space more accessible for business applications — and then, the home eventually.”
The robot can also navigate spaces autonomously, Wired notes. Basically, once a human operator manually drives the robot around a particular area, the bot can create its own “map” and figure out how to walk over the same location on its own.
A not-at-all-terrifying Boston Dynamics video posted Friday showed the robot doing just that.
So how might people use SpotMini, other than freaking out their neighbors?
Raibert said that the company is developing various applications for the bot, including a “surveillance package” involving “special cameras” that can be mounted on the robot.
Additionally, he sees consumers customizing the bot with their own hardware and software to meet their needs.
“Third parties can develop applications for it,” he said.