Boston Dynamics' Spot robo-dog can now pick things up and charge itself

Boston Dynamic's first commercial robot, Spot, has had an upgrade, with the new version of the charmingly-terrifying robot dog now adding a robot arm and the ability to self-charge. Smallest of Boston Dynamics' models – and a quadruped, unlike the weirdly agile bipedal robots that arguably helped cement the company's reputation as a heavyweight in the segment – Spot has been on sale to businesses since June 2020.

Then, the roughly $75,000 'bot was billed as a straightforward way to add a roaming robot to the workforce. Boston Dynamics already had about 150 Spot units deployed as part of an early-adopter program it had started in 2019, but the robot had graduated to a full commercial product.

Since then, we've seen an even bigger name wade in. Hyundai pumped $1.1 billion dollars into Boston Dynamics, in return for a majority share. The goal, it's said, was to better commercialize the products that had long been in development, with a broader set of models and accessories.

We're seeing that filtering through now. The Spot Arm is a new robot arm that can be mounted to the robo-dog, and is designed to operate both in a telemanipulation mode where remote operators control it directly, or a semi-autonomous mode where it can act on its own accord.

"It can manually or semi-autonomously grasp, lift, carry, place, and drag a wide variety of objects," Boston Dynamics explains. "It is also capable of manipulating objects with constrained movement and can open and close valves, pull levers and turn handles and knobs in coordination with its body to open standard push and pull doors."

Meanwhile, there's also a self-charging Enterprise Spot, which is capable of navigating itself to a docking station where it can recharge. "Spot Enterprise leverages upgraded hardware for improved safety, communications, and behavior in remote environments," the company says. "These upgrades expand the range that autonomous missions can cover, extend WiFi support, add flexibility to Spot's payload ports, and enable users to quickly offload large data sets collected during the robot's mission."

To control it all, there's a new Scout system, a web-based application that allows a fleet of Spot robots to be remotely controlled and managed. Until now, Spot had been operated from a dedicated tablet controller, but Scout allows more ready access to preprogrammed autonomous missions and manual control. For example, Boston Dynamics suggests, Spots could be outfitted with a Spot CAM+IR thermal imaging payload and then used to proactively manage a factory and its assets, without having to send out a human worker, and with the dog robots coexisting in the facility with human employees.