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Humans will eventually be replaced by robots because humans are bad and flawed and mostly broken. But dogs? Dogs are perfect. Despite this, Boston Dynamics has decided to try to improve on perfection with its own, mechanical version of man’s best friend.
SpotMini, a smaller reimagining of the automation company’s Spot bot, is how dogs would look if they were made of nightmares. The four-legged monstrosity weighs 55 pounds, about the same as the average boxer or a severely overweight dachshund, but can weigh up to 65 pounds with the addition of an arm attachment.
Dogs, as you may know, do not come with arms. They instead have tails, which are used for communication, balance, and spreading scent. Tails are also often used for knocking things over. SpotMini can be seen using its arm to move an empty can into a waste bin in a video created by Boston Dynamics, which is great, but it’s also not a tail.
SpotMini ditches hydraulics and is reliant exclusively on electric motors to move around and perform its tasks. It can run for about 90 minutes before it needs to recharge. Dogs also require recharging, often through naps on furniture they aren’t allowed to use, but can perform certain tasks like chasing tennis balls continuously without taking a single break.
Boston Dynamics has packed its robotic canine with a wealth of sensors, including proprioception sensors located in the limbs, used for navigation and mobile manipulation. It’s also equipped with depth cameras and a solid state gyroscope to keep it moving. Dogs have organic sensors, like big ol’ doe eyes, floppy ears, and wet noses.
According to Boston Dynamics, SpotMini is capable of performing some tasks autonomously, but often requires human assistance for high-level guidance. This is where SpotMini and dogs share the most similarities—though when SpotMini can’t complete a task, it’s because its programming has failed it. When a dog can’t complete a task, it’s because it has tried its best but is just a dog.
We decided to put SpotMini up against dogs directly to see how the two compared at completing a variety of tasks. The results speak for themselves.
Entering a Room
Moving with extra appendage
Falling and getting up
Using the stairs
Moving with grace
Despite the best efforts of Boston Dynamics, which is still looking for a new home since being put on the market by current owner Google, it’s clear that dogs are still superior to robots in every way. Maybe try putting some fur and a tail on the next bot and see if that helps.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.