New Robot, SpotMini, Foiled By Banana Peels

Roboadvisorsgeralt / Pixabay

Boston Dynamics, the robotic company known for producing impressive autonomous robots, notably the BigDog and AlphaDog, has now released footage of their latest four-legged machine, the SpotMini. While the company in the past has tested out the balance of their robots by kicking them, shoving them, and swinging 20-kilo weights into them, has a new method of testing: tripping them with banana peels.

While Boston Dynamics are considered state-of-the-art when it comes to robotic humanoids, they are also known for their terrifying line of dog-inspired, gas-powered four-legged robots. They are also famous for kicking these robotic animals, and in an amazing technical display of realtime balance on the part of the robot, they manage to stay upright for the most part.

SpotMini helping out around the house

The new robot, called the SpotMini, is a smaller version of a previous robot of theirs, Spot. The robot is sometimes equipped with a mechanical arm, which looks like a freakishly-long neck, and a mechanical hand, which suspiciously looks like a head. It’s a quite disconcerting design for a robot designed to help around the house. The robot can use this “arm” to grab various things as well as right itself after a fall.

In order to properly test the robot’s balance and “arm,” Boston Dynamics employed a tactic straight out of Saturday morning cartoons: using a banana peel. The company tricked the SpotMini into walking into a pile of banana peels, and the results are quite impressive.


 
As you can see, the robot wipes out pretty hard, and stays motionless for a second. While at first one might be concerned for the well being of such a friendly-looking, zoomorphic robot, do not fret, as the robot quickly and easily uprights itself.

To put icing on the cake (quit showing off SpotMini!), the robot then walks effortlessly up a flight of stairs. Then, SpotMini decides to help out around the house (as a good house-robot should) by throwing out some garbage and loading a dishwasher.

The future of household chores?

“SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built,” the video description reads. “It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.”

The helpful house robot can run for about 90 minutes, and is a smaller version of the 160-pound Spot robot, which was kicked around in its introduction video in February of this year. Boston Dynamics, you have no chill.

Boston Dynamics is owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, but, according to Bloomberg, which cited two people familiar with the company’s plans, Alphabet is trying to sell the company because it “isn’t likely to produce a marketable product in the next few years.”

Clearly, if these robots are to be something of the future, soon enough we won’t have to do any daily chores around the house; SpotMini is happy to help out. But if they decide to become sentient and take over the world, we are going to need a lot more that a pile of banana peels to stop them.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at theflask@gmail.com

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