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Boston Dynamics’ robot dog shows off its fifth limb in new video

Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog, affectionately called Spot, has shown off its fifth limb in new footage.

Video released by the secretive US firm shows Spot picking up dirty laundry, using a skipping rope, doing the gardening and operating machinery in a warehouse using the new addition. 

Spot, which is suited for indoor or outdoor use, can map its environment, sense and avoid obstacles, climb stairs and open doors. 

The nimble, four-legged robotic dog has been under development by highly secretive US firm Boston Dynamics for years, before it was finally made available to purchase in June for the hefty sum of £75,000.  

The robotic fifth limb, which has been teased in promotional videos from the firm for years, was not included in the final product – although it’s rumoured it will be offered as an add-on for customers this year or built-in to future updates.  

The video is a sneak preview of an expanded Spot product line, which will be revealed later today.

 

Video released by the secretive US firm shows Spot picking up dirty laundry, using a skipping rope, doing the gardening, operating machinery in a warehouse and drawing on the pavement with a piece of chalk

‘Now that Spot has an arm in addition to legs and cameras, it can do mobile manipulation,’ Boston Dynamics said.

‘It finds and picks up objects (trash), tidies up the living room, opens doors, operates switches and valves, tends the garden, and generally has fun. 

‘Motion of the hand, arm and body are automatically coordinated to simplify manipulation tasks and expand the arm’s workspace, making its reach essentially unbounded.’

As demonstrated in the video, the arm will have six degrees of freedom with multiple rotating joints for maximum flexibility. 

At the end of the arm is a ‘hand’ that can clamp down on objects and hold them firmly to perform various tasks – which also includes holding a piece of chalk to draw on the pavement.

The footage also shows the hand holding a cinder block, with the pooch having enough strength to drag it along the ground.     

Spot, the quadruped robot has been developed by Boston Dynamics. The firm says all of its sales will be subject to terms and conditions that dictate the 'beneficial use' of its robots

Spot, the quadruped robot has been developed by Boston Dynamics. The firm says all of its sales will be subject to terms and conditions that dictate the ‘beneficial use’ of its robots

This new version of Spot will also feature a new programming interface, along with its extra limb. 

‘Like the base robot there’s much more to the arm than just hardware,’ Boston Dynamics said.

‘It will ship with an intuitive UI, and be equipped to operate through both telemanipulation and supervised autonomous behaviours via the tablet.’

Spot was announced by Boston Dynamics back in 2016 and underwent various trials before being released commercially on June 17, 2020. 

Shortly after its launch last year, footage emerged of Spot patrolling a SpaceX test site in Boca Chica, Texas – suggesting multi-billionaire Elon Musk was one of the first customers.      

In footage captured by Texas-based YouTuber LabPadre, the Boston Dynamics dog can be seen trotting through thick clouds of nitrogen next to the wreckage. 

Leaked pictures also supposedly show a bright red dog house for the robot dog to sleep in, showing it has been rechristened ‘Zeus’ by Musk’s firm. 

Elon Musk went to the trouble of setting up a dog house for the new robotic SpaceX employee

Elon Musk went to the trouble of setting up a dog house for the new robotic SpaceX employee

Spot has specifically been designed for business use – in fact, when a business buys a Spot unit, they have to acknowledge a stipulation in the terms and conditions that ‘it’s not certified safe for in-home use or intended for use near children’. 

However, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert previously said that Spot will soon be available for home use.

‘We also have a project that I’m sure many of you are going to be very interested in, and that’s cleaning up your house,’ he said last year. 

‘Now, Spot isn’t available yet for home use, but someday it will be. I think you’re going to love the idea that the robot can be put in a room and use its vision system to identify your kids’ clothing that’s been lying around.’ 

Boston Dynamics’ CEO Rob Playter told TechCrunch that the company had sold around 260 Spot units as of October last year.    

Black Mirror’s ‘Metalhead’ was the fifth episode of the fourth season that was filmed entirely in black and white

Black Mirror’s ‘Metalhead’ was the fifth episode of the fourth season that was filmed entirely in black and white

Boston Dynamics’ technology is probably best known for inspiring a standout episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’. 

In the 2017 episode, called ‘Metalhead’, people in the near future flee from an army of robotic dogs that ruthlessly hunt down humans. 

But not to worry – Boston Dynamics reassured that it will not support uses of Spot that ‘harm or intimidate’ people which includes banning the attachment of weapons. 

The firm hasn’t ruled out selling Spot to security firms, for example, or further law enforcement trials, however. 

WHAT IS BOSTON DYNAMICS’ SPOT MINI ROBO-DOG?

Boston Dynamics first showed off SpotMini, the most advanced robot dog ever created, in a video posted in November 2017.

The firm, best known for Atlas, its 5 foot 9 (1.7 metre) humanoid robot, has revealed a new ‘lightweight’ version of its robot Spot Mini.

The robotic canine was shown trotting around a yard, with the promise that more information from the notoriously secretive firm is ‘coming soon’.

‘SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home’ the firm says on its website.

It weighs 25 kg (55 lb), or 30 kg (66 lb) when you include the robotic arm.

SpotMini is all-electric and can go for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing, the firm says, boasting ‘SpotMini is the quietest robot we have built.’ 

SpotMini was first unveiled in 2016, and a previous version of the mini version of spot with a strange extendable neck has been shown off helping around the house. 

In the firm’s previous video, the robot is shown walking out of the firm’s HQ and into what appears to be a home.

There, it helps load a dishwasher and carries a can to the trash.

It also at one point encounters a dropped banana skin and falls dramatically – but uses its extendable neck to push itself back up. 

‘SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built, the firm says, due to its electric motors.

‘It 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. 

‘SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.’ 



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