In June 2020, Boston Dynamics began selling its first commercial robot: Spot.
It was a great moment for the company. For most of its 30-year history, Boston Dynamics has focused on research and development. Boston Dynamics initially received much of its funding from the US military and DARPA. It was later funded by well-known owners such as Google, SoftBank and, most recently, Hyundai. All of these companies have tried to get the robot maker on the road to commercialization, and Boston Dynamics is finally on the way.
“I assume that we will be a series manufacturer of new types of robots with expanded capabilities. I think we will all, say three to five years, bring a new robot to market that targets a new industry, ”said Robert Spieler, CEO of Boston Dynamics.
But for now, Boston Dynamics is focusing on the inspection and storage industry with its Spot and Stretch robots.
“The next big industry for Spot is really in this market we call industrial sensing or dynamic sensing, where we have robots walking around in places like manufacturing plants, chemical plants, utilities, installations and using the robots to collect.” automates data about what is going on in these facilities, “says Zack Jackowski, chief engineer of the Spot product.” And this is really interesting because once you get this highly repeatable, high quality data, you can see these facilities and their efficiency in new ways to understand.”
Boston Dynamics’ spot robot inspects a National Grid substation in Massachusetts.
So far, Spot has been used to conduct inspections on construction sites, oil rigs, nuclear power plants, check the vital signs of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and even remind people to keep social distance amid the pandemic. Boston Dynamics says it has sold several hundred spot robots, with the entry-level robot costing around $ 75,000.
The company’s other commercial robot, Stretch, is focused on the warehouse market.
“We see Stretch as a universal cardboard moving machine that can be used anywhere in the warehouse,” says Playter. “Around 800 million containers are shipped around the world every year. Many of them are full of boxes. In the United States, there are likely to be trillions of boxes loaded and unloaded by hand each year. It is a huge task of material that needs to be moved. Stretch is a real tool that helps people move this material. “
Stretch is made up of a couple of different parts. The robot uses a mobile base to move around in tight spaces and to drive up loading docks. An arm, gripper, vision cameras and sensors enable the robot to recognize and handle a large number of different objects. Initially, the robot is used to load and unload trucks.
Boston Dynamics expects Stretch to go on sale next year, though it wouldn’t give any pricing information. Customers can also choose to just buy the computer vision software that powers Stretch, which Boston Dynamics calls Pick. The company says it is working with some early adopters to test the robot, but doesn’t want to say who those partners are.
Watch the video to learn more about the history of Boston Dynamics and the company’s plan for transition from research and development to commercialization.