Since the days of BigDog, the quadrupedal robots of Boston Dynamics have impressed and repelled us. But while the early, bulky robots never felt like something we’d see in real life, the company’s latest and greatest creation, Spot, is not only quite real, but now for sale — in fact, some people have had them for months already.
Boston Dynamics announced on our stage at TC Sessions: Robotics last year that Spot, previously known as SpotMini, would be its first commercial product — and we got the first peek at the production version at this year’s conference in May. It’s an incredibly impressive and flexible robotics platform capable of navigating a variety of environments and interacting with many everyday objects and obstacles. And while today is the first day of official sales, there are already robots out there in use.
“We’re putting Spots out into the wild as we speak,” Boston Dynamics VP of business development Michael Perry told TechCrunch. “Last month we started delivering robots to customers, as part of an early adopter program. The question we’re posing to these early customers is ‘what do you think spot can do for you that’s valuable?’ We had some initial ideas, but it’s all our thinking and the hope is that this program will enable a whole new set of use cases.”
The early adopter program is lease-based rather than a straight purchase, but there’s no shortage of customers who want to own their Spot outright. The cost of one of the robots varies, but think tens of thousands of dollars — this isn’t a hobby bot.
“The general guidance is that the entire early adopter program is going to be about the price of a car, but how nice of a car depends on a lot,” said Perry.
Some people might want a bare-bones platform onto which they can integrate their own sensing and interaction tech. Others might want a fully functional robot they can plug into their existing automation workflow.
But either way, it will take some work on the part of the customer. Spot isn’t going to inspect that oil pipeline or patrol a facility with the push of a button. It’s a powerful, flexible legged robot platform, but Boston Dynamics isn’t running a turn-key service.
“We’re now at a phase where we don’t have to send out 12 engineers with the robot,” said Perry. “Say a customer wants to operate it close to people — it needs to detect people and change its behavior. That’s totally possible. We can actually leave it with them, give them access to our GitHub repo, and say ‘have at it.’ But if someone says they just want it built into the robot… We want people to have realistic expectations about what it can do.”
That said, you don’t need to present a whole whitepaper on your intentions. A lot of companies just want to buy a couple of these guys to play around with and test. If you’re one of those, or perhaps a smaller operation with more specific goals in mind, get in touch with Boston Dynamics and its sales team via the link here.
“We have a deluge of people emailing us,” he lamented. “Some are legitimate applications, but some just want Spot as a pet, or to get them a beer from the fridge. It would be thrilling to accommodate them, but we’re not quite there yet.”
No word on when you’ll be able to buy an Atlas.