In a YouTube video posted Tuesday titled “Mush, Spot Mush!,” Boston Dynamics showed off the strength of its SpotMini quadrupeds. The video, which at press time had already been viewed more than 260,000 times, shows 10 SpotMini robots pulling a truck across the company’s parking lot.
According to Boston Dynamics, the parking lot is slopped 1 degree uphill and the truck, thank goodness, was in neutral. In the video description, Boston Dynamics quips, “it only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot.”
We have reached out to Boston Dynamics to learn more about this latest video. The Waltham, Mass.-based company is usually tight-lipped, but we’ll update this piece if we learn more.
In the video description, Boston Dynamics says these SpotMini robots “are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.” Without getting into a specific timeframe, Boston Dynamics also told The Robot Report at Automate/ProMat 2019 that SpotMini would be available soon.
SpotMini will be the first commercialized product Boston Dynamics built from start to finish. Its first-ever commercialized product is the Pick System, but it inherited that product when it acquired Kinema Systems on April 2, 2019.
One point of interest is how Boston Dynamics controls the swarm. And you usually see robot swarms consist of much smaller robots. This is not the first time Boston Dynamics has demoed multiple SpotMinis working together. In February 2018, the company released a video of an SpotMini using its robot arm to open and hold a door open for its armless robot friend. Watch that video below.
It would also be interesting to hear how many SpotMini robots Boston Dynamics plans to produce. During his keynote at the Robotics Summit 2018, which is produced by The Robot Report, Raibert said the company planned to build 100 SpotMinis over the next year and 1,000 each year going forward. Is that still the case? In the video of the robots pulling the truck, there appears to be a model number on each SpotMini, with “B29” the highest number we can make out.
SoftBank acquired Boston Dynamics from Google in mid-2017. And Boston Dynamics has been more focused on real-world applications ever since the acquisition. Perhaps the latest SpotMini video does not depict a real application, but we have seen its older brother inspect construction sites and the new Handle robot hard at work inside a warehouse.
SpotMini is a four-legged robot that weighs 25 kg (30 kg if you include the arm). SpotMini is all-electric and can go for about 90 minutes on a charge, although it likely would not last that long hauling trucks.
SpotMini inherits all of the mobility of its bigger brother, Spot, while adding the ability to pick up and handle objects using its 5 degree-of-freedom arm and beefed up perception sensors. The sensor suite includes stereo cameras, depth cameras, an IMU, and position/force sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation.