Boston Dynamics has taught its fleet of SpotMini robot dogs a new trick: The robotics company posted a new video featuring ten of the mechanical canines hauling a cargo truck up a slightly inclined hill like a team of sled dogs. The video was shared to the company’s popular YouTube page on Tuesday.
In the above video, two lines of SpotMini’s are tethered together and marched in unison to inch a semi-truck in neutral gear forward. As with pretty much every video Boston Dynamics publishes, it elicited a flurry of Black Mirror, Terminator, and robot overlord-themed references across social media. But Boston Dynamics promises that its famous SpotMinis are here to help humans, not to rule them.
“It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot (~1 degree uphill, truck in neutral),” reads the video’s description. “These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.”
SpotMini will soon be available for purchase to help with any manual labor humans might be having trouble with, but don’t expect it to become a household pet. Boston Dynamics has long been open about its plan to focus on creating robots for enterprise use-cases like the logistics business. These Spotpowers, then, will likely be sold to companies will likely use them organize, stack, and haul boxes across ever more massive warehouses.
Earlier in April, the robotics company acquired Kinema Systems, a California-based startup that develops machine learning software and 3D sensors to help industrial robots precisely lift and move boxes. That news came days after Boson Dynamics showed off big upgrades to its “Handle” robot, which has transformed from from the “nightmare-inducing” bipedal machine first demoed in 2017 to a fine-tuned robotic-ostrich that stacks packages using a suction-cup beak.
Tuesday’s announcement made it clear that SpotMini is also destined for a life in logistics. The quadrupedal machine can carry up payloads as heavy as 30.9 pounds (14 kg), according the company’s site.
Future warehouses for shipping companies like Amazon could in theory use a team of Handle robots to stack stock keeping unit (SKU) pallets automatically, and then pass them on to a fleet of SpotMinis to pull them onto trucks other other places.
The robots that Boston Dynamics provides are in great demand at the moment. More than 50 percent of businesses plan to begin using SKUs over the next five years, according to March report by Mordor Intelligence. These kinds of pallets allow companies with massive inventories to quickly and accurately weigh orders, determine shipping costs, categorize items, and funnel all of that data to machines.
SpotMinis, by functioning as the carrier robots that move heavy pallets into trucks and vice versa, will presumably fit in perfectly in these kinds of arrangements. Good boys.