Softbank owned Boston Dynamics has made some exciting progress in its quest to become the global leader in advanced robotics.
Firstly, it’s humanoid robot, named Atlas, has been shown on a video released on YouTube, running across a grassy, uneven hill. For the uninitiated, the idea of a robotic humanoid being able to adjust its footing enough to perform this type of manoeuvre is exciting in itself, but based on the way Atlas navigates what appears to be a completely unplanned route, shows a high degree of spatial awareness, unusual for robots in general.
Atlas is also seen jumping over obstacles, and apparently judging landings. While this is interesting also, it is likely that the jumps and landings were preplanned and therefore preprogrammed.
Perhaps more exciting for the general public is the announcement that Boston will make SpotMini, its robot dog, available to the public next year. While it is yet to be determined exactly what purpose SpotMini will perform, apart from being a novelty, there are numerous potential applications. In a private home, the most obvious would be personal security. When combined with a smart security system, SpotMini can identify intruders, lock doors or deter individuals from entering the property. With the addition of a recording device, SpotMini can also record details of an attempted intruder, and send it to the police immediately. The same application can be applied in a corporate environment, with robot dogs patrolling secured areas.
Perhaps most notably, locations that require high security, but also sanitary conditions that don’t allow for actual dogs, such as health facilities, server rooms and laboratories can now have a virtual dog keeping an eye out for not only intruders, but also hackers or people undertaking corporate espionage. Previously, this type of behaviour was more straightforward to cover-up due to the perceived normality of behaviours, but SpotMini will be able to alert the proper authorities immediately should a breach be in progress.
Another fascinating uptake of the combination of AI and robotics is tractor manufacturer John Deere. They are reportedly producing a harvester that will automatically be able to detect a weed and exclude it from harvesting automatically. This will increase effectiveness and quality at a significant level, and reduce the need for complex weeding or manual labour.