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Large-scale availability is expected for mid-2019.
Boston Dynamics has spent the last 26 years building mechanical versions of real animals and posting videos of them in action to the utter amazement and horror of the general public. Having already invaded our nightmares, the robotics firm now wants to conquer our homes.
The company will soon sell SpotMini, the sinister headless canine automaton it first showed off in 2016. SpotMini is in pre-production and is scheduled for large-scale production and availability in mid-2019.
Weighing in at 66 pounds, the robo-dog is capable of operating for 90 minutes before needing a recharge. Adding to its creepiness, SpotMini can navigate fully autonomously using a series of built-in cameras and sensors. What really makes the dog so troubling are its lifelike movements enabled by 17 joints and a 3D vision systems.
“The SpotMini robot is one that was motivated by thinking about what could go in an office—in a space more accessible for business applications—and then, the home eventually,” Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert said at a robotics conference on Friday.
SpotMini, designed after its bigger brother Spot, has evolved over the years. The latest prototype, which looks eerily similar to the killing machine in Black Mirror’s “Metalhead” episode, is the quietest robot the company has built and cost 10 times less than the version before it. Pricing has not yet been announced but we expect SpotMini to cost magnitudes more than the adorable $1,700 Aibo puppy from Sony.
While SpotMini is an impressive achievement in robotics, you might be wondering why you’d want a robot dog when real dogs are already the best. As the first product video shows, the metal creature can help put away dishes or throw away the trash. It can also be used for security purposes to patrol buildings or in warehouses to pick items off shelves.
It completes these tasks using a new neck appendage. Boston Dynamics showed off the attachment in February in a YouTube video titled, “Hey Buddy, can you give me a hand?” In it, a SpotMini without the attachment walks up to a door and waits for its owner. Instead, another dog with an arm attached to its body expertly pries the door open and holds it for the other dog to go through. It’s a mouth-opening demonstration and our best guess of what a world run by robot animals would look like.
Boston Dynamics was owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet just last year before being acquired by Japanese megacorporation Softbank. Its new owner has already put significant investments in robot technology and even released its own humanoid named Pepper.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.