At Softbank World 2017, Boston Dynamic’s CEO Marc Raibert shows off the latest iteration of their robotic dog the SpotMini to the Japanese public.
The new SpotMini boasts stereo cameras and a LiDAR system which helps it build a 3D-map of the world around it. It can adapt to many environments, uneven or rough terrain and can grab and manipulate things with its robotic arm. An autonomic patrol mode was also demonstrated, allowing the robot to patrol factories, galleries, shopping malls and the like.
Back in June, Softbank acquired Boston Dynamics, together with a secretive bipedal robotic company called Schaft from Alphabet (Google’s parent company). When the creator of Android Andy Rubin left Google in 2014, he left the position as Head of Robotics Department empty. With a renewed focus in AI and machine-learning, Alphabet has subsequently sold off robot-related companies it had acquired previously.
Boston Dynamics, which branched off of MIT 25 years ago, has developed four-legged and bipedal robots together with DARPA, aimed at aiding the U.S. military. However, it didn’t work out, as the robotic assistants were deemed too noisy and thus would reveal soldiers’ positions on the battlefield. Instead, their videos of the uncanny assistants have been making rounds on the Internet where they’re helping out with chores, carrying heavy loads and slipping on banana peels…
Masayoshi Son is Japan’s richest businessman and the CEO of Softbank, a gigantic electronics conglomerate that includes Japan’s largest mobile carrier of the same name. Mr. Son has recently expanded Softbank’s position as a leader in small electronics through the acquiring of ARM Holdings, the world’s largest manufacturer of microchips, powering everything from Wi-Fi routers to smartphones. In the future Internet of Things, it makes sense to own the means to produce the necessary components that drive these things. Also, Softbank’s recent startup OneWeb is aiming to put thousands of satellites in orbit, providing a free global Internet so all things IoT would have no trouble at communicating.
Softbank already had a robotics division of its own, unleashing the cute, big-eyed robotic helper “Pepper” in 2015. The robot is capable of voice communication and reading people’s emotions; however, the robot has limited capabilities of moving. It makes us wonder if Softbank’s ulterior goal is to put together a robot powered by Boston Dynamic’s uncanny yet efficient mobility with these kind of humanoid helpers? What do you guys think? Nothing beats Pepper hugging Neil deGrasse Tyson though!