Boston Dynamics gives its dog-like robot a powerful new tool

13 Feb 2018

Still from ‘Hey Buddy, Can You Give Me a Hand?’ Image: BostonDynamics/YouTube

While dogs have been opening doors for years, with much effort, the new Boston Dynamics robot does it with ease.

In a robotic society, the idea that a single robot will be able to do all of the tasks that a team of humans can is rather far-fetched.

Rather, the future of a robotic workforce is one in which teams of robots work together to allow a machine to excel in one task, and to aid another in a different task.

This concept is clear to see in Boston Dynamics’ latest video showcase of its dog-like robot – SpotMini – now featuring a shiny, new and powerful extra arm.

The dextrous robot’s purpose is to team up with other SpotMinis to approach a door and open it, allowing its armless companions to walk in.

The ability to open a door has always been seen as proof of a robot’s capabilities, given that it has been one of the tests for machines in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, as well as other dexterity challenges such as turning valves and getting out of vehicles.

However, in those instances, the challenge asked people to design a humanoid robot, but here we have a four-legged machine doing the job equally well, if not better.

New future under SoftBank

As is always the case, Boston Dynamics has revealed very little information except this latest video, but it is now heading into a new future since its takeover by Japanese tech giant SoftBank in June of last year.

After the takeover, Boston Dynamics CEO and founder Marc Raibert said that he and his company were excited to work with the Japanese firm, which shares Boston Dynamics’ vision.

“We look forward to working with SoftBank in our mission to push the boundaries of what advanced robots can do and to create useful applications in a smarter and more connected world.”

At the time, it was welcome news for what was a struggling company financially after the Google-owned firm spent a year in limbo on the hunt for a new buyer.

Since then, it has noticeably increased its media output, with it revealing its flipping Atlas robot in November of last year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic