Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Boston Dynamics prepares to unleash dog-like machine

AP, 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 one of its products after more than a quarter century of research.

Boston Dynamics chief executive officer Marc Raibert on Friday said that his company plans to begin selling the dog-like SpotMini robot next year, most likely to businesses for use as a camera-equipped security guard.

However, he expects other applications for the four-legged contraption to be 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, Raibert said.

SpotMini moves 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 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, Raibert said, adding that the latest prototype costs about one-10th of the price of earlier versions to make.

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 that are 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 said his company’s former owner pushed it to start thinking of ways to bring its technology to a broader market.

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