Boston Dynamics unveils robots that can do dishes and grab beer among other amazing things

Boston Dynamics, better known for the hulking robot brute known as ATLAS, has just revealed a considerably smaller creation that looks like a cross between a golden retriever and a baby giraffe. But forget about it just replacing your family pet: SpotMini looks like it can replace your housecleaner too.

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Weighing just 55 pounds on its own, or 65 pounds with its long articulated arm attached, SpotMini skips the hydraulics that Boston Dynamics’ other robots rely on, exclusively using electric motors to move around. On a full charge, it can quietly roam about your house for a full 90 minutes depending on what chores you have it doing.

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It’s got a full suite of sensors on board for navigating almost any environment, and the robo-dog can tackle stairs better than most adults can.

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“..Among other things, the raptor-looking robot is shown running around outside, maneuvering around objects in a home, and climbing up some stairs. But perhaps the most interesting thing Spot Mini is shown doing is carefully picking up a wine glass and loading it into the dishwasher. This particular task caught my eye because it showed just how skilled the robot is at handling delicate objects. This is important because in order for robots to safely operate around humans — whether in the home or in public — they must be capable of sensing their environment and knowing their own force. 

For example, say you want a robot to go into your fridge and bring you a beer bottle. The robot will first need to locate the beer, push objects out of the way without breaking them, and then pick it up with the right force so that it doesn’t break the glass. These kind of movements are natural to us but are difficult for robots. The video clearly shows that Boston Dynamics has made huge strides towards making robots safe enough to be around humans and maneuver around a house…continued”

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Boston Dynamics has a new video showing off the latest version of Atlas—the badass humanoid robot. And it’s pretty incredible. The most striking thing about this new version is the amazing balance Atlas achieves. I’ve never seen a humanoid robot with this kind of agility.

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This version of Atlas can not only walk over rough terrain, but he can squat and pick up boxes. You can even push Atlas violently with a hockey stick and he’ll maintain his balance. And his most incredible accomplishment? He can stand up after falling down.

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When I Andrew Liszewski, was in Pomona, California for the DARPA Robotics Challenge this past summer one of the most difficult things that all the competing teams faced was simply keeping their robots upright. Remember all those funny gifs or robots awkwardly falling down? They couldn’t pick themselves back up.

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This week, students and engineers from around the world will descend on Southern California for two days of good old-fashioned robot mayhem. A total of 25 teams will compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, a competition to design robots that could one day help respond to a natural or man-made disaster. The competition, hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s R&D branch, is open to the public and takes place June 5 and 6 in Pomona, California. The winning team will take home $2 million. The runner-up and third-place teams will receive $1 million and $500,000, respectively. [See images from the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials] In December 2013, 16 teams competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials in Florida, and 11 teams were selected to move on to the finals. In March, 14 other teams qualified to take part in the competition. The teams hail from countries around the globe, including the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany and Italy.

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For instance, there’s Team RoboSimian from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This team’s apelike robot will use its four limbs to remain stable and avoid tipping over. This could be a boon in the competition, because the robots will not be tethered as they try to complete the various tasks. Then there’s Carnegie Mellon University’s team Tartan Rescue, whose CHIMP robot took third place in the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. The bot has a humanlike shape, but rolls on rubberized tracks like a tank, which helps it move over uneven terrain. From Japan’s National Institute of Industrial Science and Technology comes Team AIST-NEDO, whose HRP2+ robot boasts such abilities as walking two-legged on rough terrain, lying down and getting up, falling safely, passing through narrow passages, manipulating objects while supporting itself, and dancing in traditional Japanese style. It also looks a bit like the robot from the film “Chappie.” China’s Team Intelligent Pioneer is bringing their robot Xing Tian, named after an ancient Chinese mythical hero. The humanoid bot was originally designed to be a household aide, doing housework and taking care of children and the elderly, team members said….continued”

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Many teams used the Atlas body—with their own software and alterations—and whenever an Atlas version fell over, the team would have to reset and start the robot from the beginning of the course.

Not anymore:

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A new version of Atlas, designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assesses the terrain and help with navigation. This version of Atlas is about 5′ 9″ tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs.

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