SpotMini Wants to be a Robot Delivery Dog

Boston Dynamics sees home delivery as a practical application for its SpotMini robot dog. But Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert says SpotMini needs to be cheaper to build before it will be sent on any job interviews.

Delivery robots are going to have a lot of work in this on-demand economy. That’s why delivery robots will be a focus at the CES Robotics Conference, which is produced by Robotics Trends. Steve Cousins (Savioke), Ahti Heinla (Starship Technologies) and Helen Greiner (CyPhy Works) will share their expertise during our “Delivery Robots Knocking at Your Door” panel about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this booming space.

And it looks like they have a new, somewhat unexpected competitor. TechCrunch and MIT Technology Review are both reporting that Google-owned Boston Dynamics thinks home delivery is an application that’s well-suited for its SpotMini robot dog. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt London, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert said that “we’re exploring the idea of home delivery. Instead of using drones, maybe you can do it with plain ol’ robots.”

Home delivery wasn’t talked about when SpotMini was first unveiled earlier in 2016, but maybe this shouldn’t be a total shock. Google has been building delivery drones for a while now via Project Wing. The US government gave Project Wing the go-ahead for drone delivery tests in August 2016. And in October Project Wing partnered with Chipotle to deliver burritos to students at Virginia Tech.

SpotMini Robot

Raibert noted that 25 years after founding the company, it’s starting to “turn a corner to think about making a product and finding some narrower applications.” But before Boston Dynamics starts sending SpotMini on job interviews, Raibert says the company needs to find a way to make spot cheaper. “The robots in the videos are pretty expensive still,” Raibert tells TechCrunch. “We’re interested in seeing if we can get the cost down from prototype costs to product costs. That’s a place we’re starting to reassign some of our talent.”

SpotMini is based off Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog that weighed 160 pounds. SpotMini weighs 55 lbs - 65 lbs when you attach the articulating arm to its back - and is much quieter than Spot as it ditched the hydraulics for electric power that allows it to run around for 90 minutes on a single charge.

SpotMini has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation.

Raibert wouldn’t comment on rumors about Google selling Boston Dynamics to the Toyota Research Institute. Our sister publication Robotics Business Review has a look at how the Boston Dynamics-Google relationship unraveled.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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