LONDON — Google-owned robot lab Boston Dynamics showed its latest prototype off on stage on Monday — but refused to address reports that the company is up for sale.
Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics, demoed the Spot Mini, a four-legged machine with a robotic arm mounted on its back. It was first announced back in June, but this appears to be the first time it was shown off in public.
The Spot Mini walked, ran, and hopped around the stage, before picking up a can of soda and handing it to Raibert. (It should be able to do this action automatically, but an employee was forced to step it after it was confused by the lights.) You can watch a video of it in action below.
Boston Dynamics has become famous for the viral videos it releases of its creations, walking around and performing tasks with often unnervingly animal-like fluency. The Spot Mini, the latest in a progressively smaller series of prototypes, has mannerisms remarkably similar to that of a dog.
But in March 2016, the news broke that Google is looking to sell Boston Dynamics, which it had acquired in 2013. The robotics lab has yet to launch a revenue-generating commercial product — and its videos have also provoked some alarm among people concerned about automation and the threat posed to humanity by robots and artificial intelligence, irking some Googlers.
It has been reported that Toyota is a likely buyer. But so far, Toyota, Boston Dynamics, and Google have all refused to comment.
Marc Raibert was asked on stage about the reports, but declined to discuss them. “I’ve heard that rumoured, but I don’t really have anything to offer about what the plans are,” he said.
Separately, the exec said the robot’s lab’s focus was on getting costs down “from prototype-type costs to product-type costs,” and to “build up capability that’s applicable to a broad range of things.”
In short: While Boston Dynamics’ robots are more impressive than ever, it still has a long way to go.
Here’s video of the Spot Mini in action at Disrupt:
And here’s footage of Spot Mini that Boston Dynamics released back in June:
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