Boston Dynamics originally designed four-legged robots for military purposes. Despite the long development, as well as many tests by the military, in 2015, they still abandoned this program, so the company began to create robots that can be used in industry, research, and other civilian conditions. It currently has three main developments that have reached commercial use: the Spot four-legged robot, the Handle two-wheeled robotic loader, and the Pick third-party manipulator software.
Now, the company has announced an expanded product line for its agile, mobile robot Spot. The new products include a self-charging Enterprise Spot, web-based remote operations software, Scout, and the Spot Arm. These additions extend Spot’s ability to perform autonomous, remote inspections and data collection and enable the robot to perform manual tasks.
The Spot Enterprise is a new version of Spot that comes equipped with self-charging capabilities and a purpose-built dock. Thus, the robot will independently determine that its charge level is insufficient to complete the current task and, if necessary, will go independently to the docking station. This feature allows it to perform longer inspection tasks and data collection missions with little to no human interaction. In addition, the robot has support for dual-band Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port in the docking station that enable users to quickly offload large data sets collected during the robot’s mission.
Another interesting update is the Spot Arm, a mechanized arm that has captured the world’s attention. With this manipulator, the robot will now be able to interact with the outside world. It can manually or semi-autonomously grasp, lift, carry, place, and drag a wide variety of objects. For example, it can open and close valves, pull levers, and turn handles and knobs in coordination with its body to open the standard push and pull doors. With the Spot Arm, the robot dog can penetrate into hard-to-reach places.
The company has posted a detailed video demonstrating the capabilities of Spot Arm. In the video, the 4K-camera-equipped Spot Arm can pick up objects (trash), tidy up the living room, open doors, operate switches and valves, tend the garden, and use a large piece of chalk to draw the Boston Dynamics name.
“Since first launching Spot, we have worked closely with our customers to identify how the robot could best support their mission-critical applications,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics. “Our customers want reliable data collection in remote, hazardous, and dynamic worksites. We developed the new Spot products with these needs in mind, and with the goal of making it easy to regularly and remotely perform critical inspections, improving safety and operations.“