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Meet the dog that's all byte and no bark: Boston Dynamics touts robo-pooch Spot with $75k-a-pop price tag

What's that Lassie? You need a 400MB firmware update and a reboot?

Video Boston Dynamics has put its robot dog Spot on the open market at $74,500 a pop, as long as you promise not to turn it into a home hound.

The headless machines are famous for their extraordinary dexterity – well, compared to all other robots – and can now be purchased online by anyone. Spot's not cheap, and that’s only the base price: an extra battery costs $4,620, and a movable camera that attaches to its back costs an extraordinary $29,750.

But it is a sign that a machine that once stunned millions with its movements, and led some to argue the rise of the machine was finally with us, has gone from pure research project into something commercially viable.

Spot was made available last year to a select group of companies who had to apply to Boston Dynamics and persuade it that they were doing something interesting. Roughly 150 of the droids are out there, and are typically being used for things like tracking construction projects, or accessing areas that could be dangerous for people.

One was loaned to Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, who used it to transport him in a custom-made rickshaw (among other things). Singapore is using one to enforce social distancing. And a bomb squad in Massachusetts, USA, is taking a look at the hardware.

Here's the thing in action if you need reminding...

Youtube Video

Now, however, it’s open season: if you have the cash and want a robot dog for the same price as a very expensive car, you can purchase one online. You can only buy Spot outright if you’re in the US, though you can lease it from anywhere in the world. Shipping time is six to eight weeks.

There are some restrictions: Boston Dynamics insists you use it only for commercial and industrial reasons as opposed to… who knows? But we’re sure John McAfee, say, would have some inappropriate ideas.

“Whether you are a jobsite manager, sensor developer, performer, or anything in between, Spot is the adaptable platform you need to inspect, sense, perform, and more,” said the manufacturer's website, suggesting a few ideal applications:

  • Inspect dangerous, inaccessible, and remote environments
  • Automate data collection on your site
  • Carry payloads on unstructured or unknown terrain

The robo-maker also noted that while the machine looks like a dog, it is definitely not an adorable pet.

“Spot is not certified safe for in-home use or intended for use near children or others who may not appreciate the hazards associated with its operation," the robot builder said.

"Spot is capable of incredibly robust locomotion; however, Spot should always be operated at least two meters away from people and shouldn’t be used in situations where a fall could result in injury to the operator or bystanders. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure that bystanders are trained in safe behavior around Spot.”

It’s hard to know how Boston Dynamics would find out its robo-dogs were being for nefarious reasons and, presumably, even if it did, it may not be the best idea to turn up and demand the return of a rabid robot guard dog.

Unless of course the company has trained its even-more Terminator-like Atlas robot to act as an enforcer. We look forward to the next season of Robot Wars. ®

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