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February 13, 2018

Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot now features a terrifying appendage

by John_A

If you found yourself trembling with fear at the sight of Boston Dynamics’ updated SpotMini dog-like robot when it bounded into view last November, then you’re going to suffer a full-on meltdown when you see the latest version.

The SpotMini now comes with a terrifying appendage, one so incredibly versatile that the feared robot apocalypse now seems more “when” not “if.”

In a video that’s as entertaining as it is unnerving, we first see November’s SpotMini approach a closed door. With no way to open it, the robot dog just stands there, waiting. The video’s title — Hey buddy, can you give me a hand? — hints heavily at what’s coming, with the latest SpotMini appearing in shot with that extendable appendage.

The four-legged robot extends its mechanical arm, turns the door handle and opens it, letting both robots through. But it’s not just the arm that impresses, it’s also the incredibly fluid and lifelike movement of the SpotMini.

Boston Dynamics posted the video on YouTube on February 12, and added no explanatory notes, which makes the whole thing that little bit more unsettling.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the SpotMini with a mechanical arm. The original design, unveiled by the SoftBank-owned company in June 2016, was also very impressive and featured an arm similar to the one attached to today’s SpotMini.

In the first SpotMini video from 2016, we’re shown the original robot performing various chores around the house, including loading up the dishwasher and throwing away trash. It also takes a tumble on a banana skin, suggesting at least one way us humans can defend ourselves against any upcoming robot rampage.

The most recent SpotMini design appears to incorporate sensors on the front and sides of its main body that help it understand its environment. Truth is, Boston Dynamics has so far revealed little about the SpotMini, choosing instead to modify it before filming skits and posting them on YouTube.

And no,  we don’t know what it has planned for SpotMini, or if it’s just a robot to showcase the team’s remarkable work.

Boston Dynamics has been developing a range of robots, each with their own skills. Atlas, for example, has the remarkable ability to perform a perfect backflip, though it’s not always so steady on its feet.

We await, a little nervously, to see what the Boston Dynamics crew comes up with next …

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