Boston Dynamics is not the only company that produces futuristic four-legged robots. The Chinese company Unitree Robotics has been doing this for years as well. Compared to the cost of other quadruped robots (like the $74,500 Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog), Unitree’s quadrupeds are very affordable, with their A1 robot dog costing less than $10,000 when it became available in 2020.
Unitree wants to make quadrupedal robots as affordable and popular as smartphones and drones. This week, the Chinese startup unveiled its latest creation: the Unitree Go1, a robust-looking four-legged bot that’s remarkably cheap, with prices starting at just $2,700.
This decent-looking small-size quadruped is available in three versions: the $2700 base model Go1 Air, the $3500 Go1, and the $8500 Go1 Edu. Each weighs around 12 kg (26 lb). The Go1 Edu model offers higher-end computing, 2kg more payload (up to 5kg), as well as foot-force sensors, LiDAR, and a hardware extension interface and API access.
It seems that autonomous human following and obstacle avoidance come as standard, although only the most expensive models reach the advertised top speed of 4.7 m/s (17 km/h). The middle version Go1 includes better sensing and compute as well as 50% more battery life and extra m/s of speed (up to 3.5m/s) for a modest premium in cost.
Unitree doesn’t say anything about battery life either. The video seems to suggest that the Go1 is capable of a three-kilometer, 20-minute jog, and then some grocery shopping and a picnic, all while doing obstacle avoidance and person following and with an occasional payload. If all of that is without any battery swaps, that’s pretty good. While considering the Spot only has enough energy for 90 minutes of operation, we’d say the “all-day companion” mode suggested by the Go1 demo video is a bit of an artful exaggeration.
In any case, technology like this shows that quadruped robots are rapidly moving from novelty to commodity. But the real question is: will they be useful too?