Engineering company Boston Dynamics has created a robotic canine that may just be man’s best friend for businesses. Much like a dog, this robot can walk and climb stairs. It can also record its surroundings, and perform other duties to help out during construction or other hazardous environments. However, don’t expect this “dog” to play fetch or lay down for belly rubs.
Getting To Work
This robot dog, affectionately named Spot, was launched by Boston Dynamics in 2015 as a pilot project. The company leased over 150 robots to various customers to help monitor construction sites, inspect energy facilities, and perform in theme parks. The pilot program saw these robots being used in places that would be unsafe for humans, like inside of mines and on off-shore oil rigs. The Spot robots have officially been made available to commercial and industrial businesses in the United States. The great thing about them is that they can be operated and programmed remotely in order to assist on-site. The robots can run for about 90 minutes before they need to be recharged.
In the testing phase, Spot was seen in a variety of businesses, not just on construction sites. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, Spot was used at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Par, a theme park in Singapore, to broadcast pre-recorded messages to remind people to maintain social distancing. It was also used in a COVID-19 triage center at a hospital in Boston to interview patients as well as to check their body temperatures and other vitals.
A Hefty Price
Because Spot is so helpful to businesses, the robot comes at a pretty high price. It is currently available for $74,500.To buy Spot, companies have to put down a deposit of at least $1,000, and then the robot will be delivered between six and eight weeks later. Though the price is steep, an executive at Boston Dynamics mentioned that other robots with similar capabilities have been priced at $250,000.
“The commercial customers for Spot have seen its benefits reducing risk, increasing frequency and quality of data capture, and leveraging companies’ existing talent for more complex tasks to generate value far beyond the cost of the robot,” Michael Perry, VP of business development at the company, told CNBC Make It. “The pricing for Spot balances the tremendous benefits of mobile robots with an accessible entry point for developers and researchers to explore future applications.”
Though the robot is a useful tool, the developers at Boston Dynamics want to make sure it is being used in the right way. Accordingly, there are conditions to using Spot. The robot cannot be used for in-home projects or around children. People who buy them must also agree not to arm them or intentionally use them as weapons. If a buyer violates these conditions, the company can nullify the warranty on the robot, decline to repair it, and not renew the license; which would cause Spot to shut down.
Perry stated that the goal of the company is to have people actually trust robots, which is why these conditions are explained from the very beginning. He urges companies to be open to the idea of Spot. Not only has the robot been proven to provide better safety conditions and boost productivity for businesses, but he also mentioned that the robot had been very easy to use for companies in pilot testing. “Many had never worked with a mobile robot prior to working with Spot, but were able to use common web app programming to enable their applications,” Perry shared. With all that this four-legged machine has been able to accomplish so far, it’s quite possible that we’ll see more of these Spot robots (and other similar ones) in the years to come.
Check out Spot in motion below!
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