Boston Dynamics Spot hands-on: new dog, new tricks

– Hi, I’m Russell and this is Spot. (happy music) So you’ve probably seen this robot before, maybe hauling a truck or dancing to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” ♪ And my band ’bout that money ♪ ♪ Break it down ♪ ♪ Girls hit your hallelujah ♪ It’s the first of this generation of semi-autonomous, four-legged robots. And it does a lot more than just
make videos for the internet. For about a month now, Boston Dynamics has been
putting Spot to work, leasing units out to industry partners, and seeing how this kind of robot
holds up in the real world. (happy mellow music) When you’re standing next to Spot, the striking thing is how
small and sturdy it is. It’s just under three feet
high and weighs 70 pounds, which means it’s light enough for a single person to pick up. A lot of the movements you’re seeing here are remote controlled by an operator. But Spot has a handful of basic skills it can do automatically. It knows how to climb
stairs, how to avoid walls, and even knows how to dance a little. (funky music) (heavy breathing) Spot’s not tired at all. Of course, we’ve seen
walking robots before, but few of them had
Spot’s sense of balance. Accelerometers tell Spot if it’s moving, and torque sensors in the joints tell it exactly how its
weight is distributed. If Spot feels itself tipping forward, a protocol kicks in, telling
it to find surer foot. It also has cameras on all four sides, so it can see where to plant its foot. Spot still can’t tell the difference between firm ground and loose dirt, which means navigating these dirt piles got a little chaotic. When it does fall, there’s a
protocol for righting itself, which works most of the time. Although, it did need human assistance when we flipped it into the bottom of a particularly steep ditch. The simplest way to use
Spot is this controller, which uses the same layout as an Xbox. The left joystick moves
Spot forward and back, or strafes left and right, while the right joystick spins it around. You can also use the camera
view to see what Spot is seeing, and send it to specific waypoints. Tap a spot on the screen, and Spot will find a way to get there. The controls are really easy to learn, mostly because there isn’t
that much to control, so much of it’s automatic. Within a couple of minutes, I was able to send Spot wherever I wanted, although it does stop at walls because of the object sensor. At the same time, I didn’t get the tight connection that you do with video games or RC cars. You can tell it’s more
designed for automation than human pilots. Boston Dynamics is hoping
that a lot of the time, Spot won’t need a driver at all. For more complicated tasks, you can chain waypoints together, sending Spot to retrace a path it walked through earlier
with human assistance. That could mean checking
all the gauges on an oil rig, or taking LIDAR scans of a room from a dozen specific points. This version of Spot mostly
knows how to navigate spaces, but the plan is for it to
carry more sophisticated tools on its back, like a zoomable camera or the claw it uses to open doors. Industry partners can also
build their own modules for more specialized jobs. Attach a methane detector module, and Spot can check a whole
facility for gas leaks. Attach a LIDAR rig, and Spot can make a 3D map of a whole building from the inside. It’s a completely new
way for computer programs to interact with the physical
world, automating tasks that would otherwise be impossible to
do without a human being. There’s also just
straight-up entertainment. It’s really fun to
watch this kind of robot do these precise movements, particularly if you have
10 or 15 of them in unison. It’s not hard to imagine 50 Spots dancing Pikachu-style in a theme park. Right now, Boston Dynamics
has about 60 beta units. That’s the yellow guy you’re seeing here, but they’ve already started
building the next generation, which is what they’re loaning out. Eventually, they’re hoping
to have a thousand of them, but right now there’s only
about 20 being leased out. Now, Boston Dynamics wouldn’t say exactly what those bots are doing, since most of the partnerships
are still confidential. They also didn’t tell us exactly
how much the robots cost, since technically Spot isn’t for sale. All they’ve told us is that the leases were in the range of what you’d pay to lease a
car, which doesn’t say much. One thing we have to talk about, and there’s really no other
word for it, is the creepiness. Some people get really
freaked out by Spot. It moves with a precision that we don’t see in the natural world. And it stops dead still
whenever it doesn’t have a task, which can be unsettling. When you watch these videos, there are all sorts of
comments about how these robots are going to rise up and destroy humanity. There was even a Black
Mirror episode about it. But I didn’t get that sense in person. Really Spot doesn’t
recognize people at all. For the robot, you’re just an obstacle that’s too big to step on. At the same time, Boston Dynamics is really
concerned about any situation where Spot might end up harming a person. Even if it’s just
getting your hand pinched by one of the joints. They also said that
they didn’t want to sell to any clients who would
use Spot to harm people, or build weapons modules
or anything like that, which was good to hear. Spot’s great at climbing
through piles of dirt, but it doesn’t have the social skills to navigate big crowds. And Boston Dynamics has
a lot of work to do before it can build those skills. But that does mean that for now, you’re probably not
going to see Spot anywhere with lots of people around. The company’s thinking
about construction sites, oil rigs, maybe a few movie sets, but those are all pretty
tightly controlled spaces. For now, Spot’s really just a platform. A stable base where partners
can build new modules and new software skills. Once people start
building on that platform, Spot’s going to get smarter fast, and we may start seeing robots
in places we never expected. (robotic sounds)

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