Boston Dynamics released on Monday, Feb. 9, a video about a robot dog called Spot. The company has not been vocal about what it's been up to after being acquired by Google in 2013, but the video offers a glimpse at what they have been working on most recently.
Spot is a 160-pound, four-legged robot meant for both indoor and outdoor use. Electrically powered and fitted with hydraulics, the robot dog has a sensor head that helps it navigate around even rough terrain. It's smaller than the 260-pound beast that is the BigDog but is obviously big brother to the handier, puppy-sized LittleDog.
In the video, Spot walks into a hallway much like how any dog would. As it passes by cubicles in the Boston Dynamics office, it receives a surprise from one of the employees: getting kicked but not going down. There is sufficient force in the kick to topple a table, but Spot shows it can take a hit, quickly regaining its composure to continue walking.
Outside, Spot gets kicked again. It still doesn't go down but it has a harder time taking the hit while just standing up on the pavement. Maybe the carpet floors in the office offer better traction?
The robot dog continues exploring outside, easily making work of inclines whether it's going up or down. Even a rougher patch, with rocks and small branches or some stairs, doesn't give it any trouble. Going up side by side with BigDog, Spot is nimbler, which is probably due to its reduced heft.
What's a (robot) dog if you can't jog with it, right? The video also shows how Spot can easily keep up with faster strides either with a person or another robot dog.
The two-minute video can get a bit uncomfortable at times because it's hard to believe you're watching a robot dog (given Spot reacts the same way a real dog does), but it gets the job done, showing what Boston Dynamics is capable of.
Still, no information has been released regarding what Google actually plans for the company. Not that Boston Dynamics needs guidance or anything. It has, after all, produced nine robots, including the human-like ATLAS, which has some serious karate moves.
It's anyone's guess at this point as to what applications a kick-proof robot dog like Spot would be useful for. However, imagination is the only limit:
Future Bomb-Sniffing Robot Dog
When fully developed, this robot dog can replace real bomb sniffing K-9s. Of course, they need to be properly equipped with the right sensors that can at least match the sense of smell of dogs. With Spot then there wil be no need to risk the lives of dogs or human bomb experts.
When chasing for criminals, Spot might be equipped to go after criminals. Instead of a big bite from a real canine, Spot can perhaps use a stun gun to sudue subjects or pehaps tear gas or pepper spray to force criminals out of hiding. However, we need to wait until Spot can jump over fences. Ah, Spot will be a good partner for Robocop.
Search And Rescue
Spot might also be deployed to find survivors during a natural calamity. If the environment is too dangerous for human rescuers, this quadruped robot can be in tandem with drones to look for victims and point them out to rescuers. It can also carry vital basic supplies like food or drink if people cannot be pulled out immediately from danger.
Spot can also be a guide dog for the blind or for the deaf. It has the technoogies needed to navigate a crowded walkway, cross a street, and other daily tasks that might be considered dangerous for the handicapped.
Put a GPS tracker on cows, sheeps, and other animals and this Boston Dynamics robot can easily herd them for you. Right from one's tablet, Spot can update farmers with the latest head count of animals or alert them in case it has trouble with an animal that has strayed away. It might also be able to serve as a guard dog to deter predators such as wolves, bears, and big cats.