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Research firm Boston Dynamics announces release of robotic dog with built-in surveillance tech

Research firm Boston Dynamics announced at a tech conference this week plans to manufacture its new "robot dog" called SpotMini. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

He’s hardly warm and fuzzy, but research firm Boston Dynamics says its new robot-dog could be on the market within the next year.

The robot-dog, called SpotMini, can conduct surveillance and be "trained" to operate autonomously.

What are the plans?

Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert said at a TechCrunch conference at the University of California, Berkeley, on Friday that SpotMini could be on the market within a year or so, Wired magazine reported. The company plans to begin production of the robot with 100 units.

“That's the prelude to getting them into a higher rate production, which we hope to start about the middle of next year,” Raibert said during a presentation at the conference.

SpotMini is estimated to be “10 times cheaper” than an earlier model, although the price was not disclosed.

What other 'tricks' does it do?

Unlike a traditional domestic dog, buyers can install hardware on SpotMini’s back.

“For instance, we have a surveillance package where we have special cameras that can mount on the back,” Raibert told Wired. The robotic “dog” also comes with a removable arm that opens doors and performs other functions.

To get SpotMini to work autonomously, the operator manually “drives the robot around its surroundings, as the machine captures the view with cameras on its sides and front and back,” Wired explains. “Then when SpotMini is unleashed to walk the same route on its own, it uses that captured visual data to get its bearings.”

That is essentially how driverless cars operate, according to the report.

The robot has two cameras next to each other which essentially gives it “stereo vision,” the report stated. That means sees similar to humans.

“What I take away form this is they're really trying to perfect how they walk through the world, and in order to do that they need to understand something about the world,” Kevin Peterson, co-founder and software lead of Marble, an autonomous delivery robot company, told Wired.

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