Do you remember seeing videos of a disturbingly nimble robot dog sauntering down stairs like nobody’s business, opening doors using a giant robotic claw, and even dancing to perennial pop gangbuster Uptown Funk?
Well, the potential murder-bot showcased in those viral clips is called Spot, and it’s actually a ‘friendly’ robot helper designed by the folks over at Boston Dynamics.
Until now, Spot had simply been an internet legend. A living (but not quite breathing) mechanical meme that we’d all laugh and joke about, dreaming up farfetched tales of how the clockwork canine might one day become self-aware and hunt down its human masters, pushing humanity as a species to the brink of extinction. You know, jokes like that.
As of this week, however, Spot is a legend no more. Boston Dynamics has finally made the robot available for sale, which means soon they’ll be out in the big wide world.
It’s a crucial tipping point in the impending war against the machines, and it’s time we fought back. How? By getting educated.
Aside from sending one of our finest back in time to stop Boston Dynamics from ever walking down this harrowing path, the only thing we can do right now is learn everything we can about the admittedly impressive bot.
How does it work, what can it do, and when will they start coming for us?
It’s incredibly durable
The first thing you need to know about Spot is that it’s been built to last. Designed for harsh environments like building sites or the last strongholds of humanity, the robot can withstand dusty and wet conditions thanks to IP54 protection, and is even capable of operating in temperatures ranging from -20°C to 45°C. In short: there’s nowhere you can hide where Spot won’t find you.
A flexible payload system could spell doom for us all
The robot also comes with a flexible payload interface and accessible API that allows users to attach pretty much anything weighing up to 14kg to the little mustard pooch.
Boston Dynamics suggests sticking an arm on top so Spot can open doors and handle other objects, or equipping a camera to let Spot remotely inspect facilities like Oil Refineries.
Of course, it might start with the cameras and robot arms, but we all know how it ends. With laser rifles and blender attachments that’ll make short work of us meatbags. Goddamn it, Black Mirror was right all along.
It’s capable of traversing different terrains
If you think you’ll be able to outsmart Spot by hiding off-grid, think again. One of the robot’s biggest selling points is that it "can go where wheeled robots cannot" thanks to its four creepy legs.
During those excursions, Spot is capable of hitting speeds of 3.6mph (alright, so it’s not a Ferrari) and can run for 90 minutes on a single charge. The replaceable battery, however, can be swapped out in an instant, so while you’re catching your breath Spot will be on the move. Slowly but surely chasing you down like a murderous Jack Russell.
It’s more aware than you might think
If Spot has humans beat for endurance, as least we’ve got it beat when it comes to smarts. Right now, that might be the case, but Spot is actually deceptively aware. The robot uses stereo cameras as part of a 360-degree LIDAR vision system to perceive obstacles and people as it moves through dynamic environments, and is even protected against bumps and crashes.
In the event that something does catch Spot unawares and knocks it over, the bot is also capable of righting itself in a snap. If that’s what Spot is capable of at this point, imagine what it’ll be doing in a few years.
You can buy one right now
As we mentioned earlier, Boston Dynamics has made Spot its first ever commercial product by finally bringing it to market. Of course, actually getting one isn’t as simple as adding it to your basket and hitting purchase.
Boston Dynamics is asking would-be owners to put together a written application explaining their intentions. Do you want to turn spot into a robust factory worker? or simply program the pooch to become your own personal butler? The company is currently priortising the former over the latter, although we’re personally smitten with the idea of having Spot wake us up in the morning with a nice cup of tea, a plate of toast, and maybe even a foot massage.
Whatever you’re planning on using the robot for, it’ll be an expensive endeavour, with Boston Dynamics explaining Spot wil cost around the same as a car – and we bet they aren’t talking about your Grandma’s Nissan Micra.