Boston Dynamics’ New Bot: Spot

Quieter, more nimble and much smaller. Boston Dynamics new ‘bot could be the future of search & rescue.

robot, defense, military, search and rescue, mapping, boston dynamics, google, spotBoston Dynamics (BD) recently debuted a new four-legged robot called Spot. In a video posted online, the mechanical quadruped can be seen briskly cantering through an office, slaloming up a hill, jogging side by side with a human, and recovering its balance after being kicked a few times. But what does Spot’s debut mean for the world of robotics? Is the 160lb miniature bot just a shrunken version of BD’s Big Dog, or does this little guy represent a big step forward in this rapidly maturing industry?

Since its acquisition by Google, BD has been more tight-lipped about what it’s developing. In the past BD has been an upstart driver in the world of robotics, especially of those with military applications. However, since its merger with the tech giant, it seems like BD’s mission has changed a bit.

With Spot it seems that BD is looking to build a robot that is more agile and nimble. Take for example Spot’s new legs. In previous BD ‘bots the machine’s legs have been cocked backward, giving them a prancing gait. For Spot all four of its legs are angled forward at their joints, giving the robot a seemingly more fluid and stable stride.

Aside from its locomotion, Spot also seems to be equipped with better means for feeling out its location. Mounted atop the machine’s head is a large bulb containing a LIDAR array similar to the one being used in Google’s self-driving car. Using the array, Spot appears to be able to navigate around any obstacle, coordinate its movements with another actor and follow the lead of a “master”.

Though Spot’s abilities are amazing on their own, if they were accompanied with the kind of strong AI that Google is trying to develop, Boston Dynamics’ newest ‘bots could represent the beginning of truly useful and autonomous bots.

Think of how this robot could be used in search and rescue or salvage missions. With its ability to gracefully lope through an area and correct its balance, no matter the interference, Spot could be a lead investigator in situations too treacherous for humans to venture into. What’s more, if a number of Spots could be coordinated to act in groups they could be used for any number of missions, including the creation of fully immersive 3D maps of the globe.

Given that Google already has most of the planet’s roadways mapped, maybe they’re looking to take their maps off onto into the unknown. Additionally, what’s stopping Spot from being the first four-legged explorer on Mars, Venus, or the other far off worlds we’re now beginning to study?

Source: Boston Dynamics