Over the past few years, Boston Dynamics has built a reputation as a company that builds amazingly advanced, terrifyingly quick robots. It created BigDog and Cheetah, a pair of four-legged robo-beasties, as well as a two-legged ‘bot capable of picking itself up after someone knocks it over. The company’s technological know-how drew the attention of Google, which acquired it in 2013.
Alphabet (the holding company that contains Google) might intend to sell off Boston Dynamics to the highest bidder, but that hasn’t stopped the latter from continuing to push the robotics envelope with its newest invention, the SpotMini.
The SpotMini has an extendable arm that, when deployed, makes the robot look like a miniature brontosaurus. It’s four-legged, and powered by electric battery (the company’s other creations relied on gasoline). A YouTube clip released by Boston Dynamics shows the SpotMini expertly navigating a crowded kitchen, picking up a glass and an empty soda can with the “mouth” of its extendable arm, and righting itself after slipping on a banana peel.
It can also climb stairs, meaning that it can pursue you onto the second or third level of your house when the robots finally decide to rise up against their human overlords.
Just kidding about that revolution part (we hope)!
Amazon and Toyota are reportedly interested in taking Boston Dynamics off Alphabet’s hands. Whatever the company’s fate, robotics is clearly top-of-mind for many tech pros: according to the recent Evans Data Corporation Global Development Survey, robots, along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and automobiles, represented the three top areas targeted by app-builders.
But not everybody’s applauding the rise of the robots: many pundits and analysts are concerned that a mature robotics industry could wipe out as many as 5.1 million jobs by 2020. Which economic segments will end up most affected by the rise of automation is an open question, however.