A robotics company whose creations have amassed millions of views on YouTube, is renting out one of its stars, Spot.
Anyone wishing to lease the quadruped dog-like robot could do so for “less than the price of a car,” Boston Dynamics told IEEE Spectrum.
It suggested Spot could be useful in construction, the oil and gas industry and for those working in public safety.
One expert said its appeal may be limited by its price, which will be determined by demand.
Noel Sharkey, robotics experts and professor of computer science at Sheffield University, said “Spot is possibly the world’s finest example of a quadruped robot and since the addition of a robot arm, it seems a little more practical – but will it be practical enough at that price?
“Their big example of the robot working in construction could pay off.
“They can reach places that humans find difficult, run across bricks and accompany builders carrying their loads of tools and bricks or map out districts for construction.”
But he added: “This is a big test for Boston Dynamics, which could either result in much cheaper robots for the ordinary consumer or, like many robot companies have found, cheaper copies.”
Anyone wishing to take advantage of the offer needs to fill out a form on the Boston Dynamics website.
The company told IEEE Spectrum, having built 100 test Spots, it was now ramping up into mass production but was still in “the early tens of robots”.
Chief executive Marc Raibert said: “It’s really a milestone for us – going from robots that work in the lab to these that are hardened for work out in the field.”
In a Ted talk in 2017, he demonstrated how Spot, then known as SpotMini, could deliver parcels.
But an on-stage demonstration of Spot’s abilities earlier this year did not go to entirely to plan, with the robot going around in circles and then collapsing.
In the new launch launch video, however, which has already amassed more than 800,000 views, Spot is shown walking, climbing over “difficult terrain” on a building site and opening a door.
It can also:
- carry up to 14kg (30lb)
- stand back up if it falls
- work in temperatures ranging from -20C to 45C
And its specifications include:
- a top speed of 3mph (4.8km/h)
- a run time of 90 minutes
- a programmable interface
But one viewer suggested Spot would need to be able to carry much heavier loads if it was to be put to work on a building site.
Another wrote: “My neighbours would probably freak out if I had one of these patrolling my property.”
And others made reference to an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror drama programme that shows robots very similar to Spot attacking humans.
Mr Raibert himself has previously admitted his robots were “nightmare-inducing”.
The company’s original research was funded by the military and early videos showed robots deployed on battlefields, although Boston Dynamics has since backed away from such associations.
It has also just shown off a new Atlas video, in which the humanoid robot is shown performing a complex and remarkably elegant gymnastics routine.
Mr Raibert told TechCrunch the company had already had a “deluge of interest” in Spot, including from people wanting the robot “to get them a beer from the fridge”.
“It would be thrilling to accommodate them but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.