It is not difficult to come across major advancements in the world of robotics and artificial intelligence these days. Google has been working on their robot dog, called Spot, for quite some time now. Last year, Spot played with a real dog the first time, and the experience was quite fun to watch. More recently, Alphabet unveiled a new robot dog that can clean the house. It is evident Alphabet and Google lean towards animal-based robotic AIs for the time being.
A Robotic AI-based Dog Has A Certain Appeal
When Google first introduced Spot to the world, a lot of people were seemingly confused as to what this would mean for the future of robotics and artificial intelligence. Up until that point, no company had any robotic-based AI solution larger than an insect or reptile. Google has proven they are looking well toward the future, even though the use case for a dog-sized robotic AI has yet to be determined.
That being said, Spot has proven to be a very smart dog. In fact, it is so smart, Spot even drove a real dog crazy, similarly to how other real dogs can have that effect. Even though Spot looks rather unsettling – without a proper head, for example – the novelty of this concept should not be overlooked by any means. Unfortunately, most people consider Spot to be just a novelty, rather than something that will be embraced by mainstream consumers anytime soon.
Google has not confirmed any specific application for Spot either. While such a robotic dog could be used for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes by the military, it is not something consumers would feel comfortable with right away. Then again, it remains to be seen what Google or parent company Alphabet come up with in the coming years.
Speaking of Alphabet, the company came with a rather intriguing spin on Spot a few months ago. On paper, they took the basic frame of Spot and added more utility. SpotMini, as this project is called, is created by Boston Dynamics, and is designed to navigate within the confines of a home. Moreover, it has an articulated arm which can be used to pick up objects and shimmy under tables. What makes SpotMini even more impressive is how this robot dog is very quiet and rather small.
Compared to the original Spot model, the SpotMini is quite a bit smaller and far less bulky. With its weightlifting capabilities, SpotMini could become a shopping aid for elderly and less mobile people over time. Moreover, it is well capable of navigating around obstacles, and even pass its owner a can of drink. Letting go of these objects remains a bit of a problem for the time being, though.
For the time being, it remains unclear where and how these robots will be used exactly. Finding a consumer-oriented use case for Spot or the SpotMini could prove to be challenging. For now, these projects seem to be well ahead of their time, though. Moreover, considering how Alphabet has been looking to sell Boston Dynamics for some time now, it remains doubtful they will continue to pour money into this research.
UPDATE: Earlier this week Boston Dynamics released an update regarding their robots. under the name Handle, their latest bot comes with both legs and wheels. It is capable of handling large loads is self-balances at all times. What makes it even more intriguing is how it can jump over objects. An intriguing development in the world of robotics, even though Handle is anything but market-ready at this stage.
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