While they don’t seem to have a better use for it than walking around and opening doors, Boston Dynamics have apparently made the fascinating choice to offload that task onto their customers. Watch the video. Those all-caps expressions like SPOT.GO() and SPOT.REPEAT() are demonstrating basic programming syntax. They’re announcing to the world that rather than coming with a standard but fixed set of features, Spot will come with a software development kit to allow any competent programmer to customize it to do whatever they want it to do.
This fact is made even more clear by the programming code openly emblazoned on Spot’s Spec sheet:
They expect their customers to come up with uses for Spot they can’t even imagine.
While the promotional content mentions boring but practical applications like remote construction and oil rig inspections, we can only imagine what uses the hacker community is going to come up with for a dog-sized, semi-autonomous robot. Personally, I’d love to send him go pick up my pizza. After a leisurely stroll to the local parlor, the manipulator arm could be used to hand money to the cashier, and the 360-degree cameras would capture every look of shock and uncertainty along the way. All he’d need is a bumper sticker proudly proclaiming, “This dog takes himself on his own walks.”
That’s probably in our future.
Of course, the more cynically minded might also imagine Spot delivering bombs or robbing banks. I don’t imagine it would be very difficult to mount a dozen handguns to his back to give him 360-degree firing coverage to match his cameras. Attaching a set of speakers to issue commands like, “This is a stick up!” and “Nobody move!” even less difficult. Complex motion-tracking software to shoot police and security guards wouldn’t even be necessary. Spot comes with a gaming-style remote controller and joystick that the company claims takes about 15 seconds to learn how to use: you simply point him in the direction you want him to go, and the software handles the complex aspects of terrain navigation and object avoidance.
On the other robot manipulator arm, however, Boston Dynamics has stated that they intend to be selective about who they allow to participate in their early adopter program. “Robbing banks” is probably not going to rank high on their approval list. They also expect the prices involved to be “less than a car,” and make it very clear that they don’t yet know how nice of a car they’re talking about. A few tens of thousands of dollars might be a bit much to pay for pizza delivery, but it’s not difficult to imagine these things being used for elderly care, for example. The simple fact that Spot can navigate stairs and open a refrigerator could make it a life-saving device for an unconscious owner who needs an insulin injection if they want to live past the next few minutes. The “price of a car” might only be a couple hundred dollars per month, and it’s not difficult to imagine use cases for which that would be a bargain. These robots probably won’t be in every household, but don’t be surprised if you start seeing them in the hands of mall security and hobbyists soon. The gears are probably turning in Michael Bay’s head as we speak – expect to see these skittering around in the next summer blockbuster.
What would you do with Spot? Comment below!