Boston Dynamics’ latest video of its four-legged robot, SpotMini, is just over a minute long.
But that’s all the time it takes to impress upon viewers that the technology company has developed machines capable of performing a staggering new physical feat — in this case, pulling a full-size box truck up a slight incline.
An individual SpotMini can carry only 31 pounds, but they apparently contain enough collective power to pull a vehicle that likely weighs at least 10,000 pounds. It only takes 10 of the 66-pound robots — hitched together like metallic sled dogs and marching with militaristic precision — to get the vehicle rolling.
That unmistakable power and precision left many of the video’s nearly 2 million YouTube videos feeling deeply uneasy.
“Boston Dynamics CEO: ‘Okay, team. We haven’t freaked out the YouTube crowd in about two weeks,’” a viewer named Scott Davidson wrote. "'We need to stay on top of it. What have you got?'”
“Wow now that they are making an army all they need to do is give those spots mounted machine guns and the end of the world is near,” another viewer with the name BlitzSterz added.
Boston Dynamics appears to delight in dropping simple yet startling videos without warning, revealing stunning advances in robotic technology without much context or comment. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about their latest video, but a caption at the bottom hinted at the machine’s commercial debut:
“These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon,” the caption states.
News about the SpotMini hitting the marketplace and becoming a purchasable pet of sorts has been public for months.
At the CeBIT computer expo in Hanover, Germany, last year, Boston Dynamics founder, Marc Raibert, told an audience that his company was already testing SpotMini with potential customers from four separate industries: security, delivery, construction and home assistance. His presentation at the expo was reported by Inverse. Raibert also predicted that his company’s robots could one day be used for “warehouse logistics” or even to clean up dangerous environments such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster site, where human workers are at risk.
“This robot will be available next year," he said at the time, referring to SpotMini. “We’ve built 10 by hand, we’re building 100 with manufacturers at the end of this year, and in the middle of 2019, we’re going to begin production at the rate of about 1,000 a year.”
The robotics company says the 66-pound machine is 2 feet 9 inches tall and remains the quietest robot the company has ever built. It’s electric, has 17 joints and can run for 90 minutes on a single charge. The machine — which can haul a 30-pound payload — relies on a variety of sensors to navigate the outside world and has the ability to handle objects using an arm that vaguely resembles an ostrich’s neck.
Boston Dynamics says SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, such as navigating a previously mapped warehouse, but it relies on its human owners for "high-level guidance.”
“We designed this robot to be small enough so that it could fit inside of an office or a factory or a warehouse, or even some day a home," Raibert said.