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.
.@BostonDynamics’ Marc Raibert says Spot robo-dog will be commercially available in a couple of months, now being beta tested at construction sites and playgrounds. #reMARS pic.twitter.com/yGLJyxuNGf
— Alan Boyle (@b0yle) June 5, 2019
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.)
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeBBC) June 5, 2019
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.