Boston Dynamics’ first consumer product might be a battle bot

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Boston Dynamics’ faintly terrifying quadruped dog robot—SpotMini—was first announced in 2016 and is expected to go on sale later this year. The robot has a whole lot of whizzy sensors and cameras, spindly mechanical legs, a creepy grabber arm that opens doors, and mind-bogglingly impressive robotics technology. (It’s expected to carry a five-digit price tag—a fitting sum to bring the uncanny valley direct to your home.)

But it’s never been very clear what, exactly, the point of Spot is—especially as a consumer product.

Speaking in Las Vegas at Amazon’s inaugural public Re:MARS conference on robotics, machine learning, automation and space this evening, Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert gave an audience of engineers, astronauts, and Robert Downey Jr. a key clue: entertainment. In the future, multiple players might fight Spots against each other, he said, as a “network game with physical actors.” In a video shown to the audience, four of the robots were shown tussling over a blue ball in an orange enclosure, before tumbling to the ground.

Mind you, it probably shouldn’t feature in this year’s letter to Santa. The technology is still in the early stages, Raibert explained, with next year a more likely possibility. (Two Spots brought out as a demo for audiences were kept far away from one another, with one ultimately crumpling to the floor after being paraded across the stage.)

Given Boston Dynamics’ researchers’ rich history of abusing their creations, robotics-powered dogfighting perhaps shouldn’t come as any surprise. Fingers crossed our robot overlords find it as entertaining as Raibert does.

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