It has been simply six months since Korean auto producer Hyundai acquired buzzy robotic developer Boston Dynamics, and the 2 are nonetheless attending to know one another and all of the alternatives that lie forward. This was evident at CES 2022: In the course of the Hyundai keynote, Boston Dynamics Founder and Chairman (and sure chief robotic nerd) Marc Raibert shortly corrected himself on the pronunciation of his new mother or father firm’s identify.
A day after that keynote Raibert informed a set of Zoomed in tech journalists that Boston Dynamics remains to be constructing a relationship with Hyundai and figuring out the place they’ll slot in and the way their applied sciences overlap.
At this second, their comingled robotics work is minimal. Hyundai’s MobED platform has nothing to do with Boston Robotics. It is also very a lot a analysis challenge. However determining how Boston Dynamics Synthetic Intelligence (AI) applied sciences can add worth to automobiles could be very a lot within the roadmap.
There are clear areas of overlap, like how robots and automobiles – self-driving ones, particularly – could make use of imaginative and prescient methods. Nonetheless, Raibert’s keenly conscious of the divergence in want: “There are similarities and variations,” he informed us. In reliability, as an example. What a automobile touring 60-to-70 mph on typically unstructured or unpredictable roadways wants is sort of totally different from what a manufacturing facility robotic just like the Stretch robot would possibly require.
Even so, Raibert sees important alternatives on the manufacturing aspect. “We’re figuring out factories making automobiles – legacy and futuristic ones – [for robots] to tackle duties that both aren’t being accomplished or could possibly be.”
There is not any indication that Hyundai plans a radical shift in Boston Dynamics’ core robot-development technique, however I used to be curious how working with such a consumer-facing model would possibly affect future Boston Dynamics tasks.
In any case, the robots Boston Dynamics presently develops – the humanoid Atlas, the quadruped canine Spot, and the wheeled and stretchable Stretch – are within the dialog as a result of, a minimum of within the case of Spot and Atlas, they attraction to customers. It is most likely all that dancing.
I requested Raibert if Hyundai might push Boston Dynamics to develop extra consumer-friendly variations of their robots and urged a “Spot Lite.”
“We’d all like to have a client robotic, one thing like Spot or Spot Lite which are low value. But it surely’s not simple to get there.”
For instance the issue, Raibert defined, “We even labored for years with Sony on AIBO [the company’s nearly $3,000 robot dog] making ones that you just’ve by no means seen which are extra succesful.”
Sony’s two go-arounds with consumer-grade robotic companion canine have been marginally profitable. The corporate launched the primary AIBO (which it then insisted was not a canine) back in 1999. It went by just a few iterations earlier than disappearing. A redesigned, and really puppy-like, AIBO arrived just a few years in the past at CES, however nonetheless sells for an oppressive $2,800.
It is onerous to know if Boston Dynamics tried to assist throughout the first interplay or this new one, however I might like to see all of the failed fashions. My guess is that they have been wonderful however would’ve jacked up the worth to properly over $20,000. Boston Dynamics headless Spot presently prices $75,000, and you continue to should know learn how to program it to do one thing helpful.
Raibert additionally jogged my memory of what number of social robotic companions have failed over time. There’s the problem of discovering the suitable paradigm and getting prices below management.
There may be trigger for optimism, although. Raibert, who stated he is been engaged on robots since earlier than the times of the mini laptop, finds that the smartphone trade is especially useful in driving down the price of parts together with cameras and processors, issues that can be utilized in future robots. “We’re getting enormous assist,” he stated, including that with reference to inexpensive companion robots, “I believe it’s going to occur.”
What would possibly occur sooner, although, is a wave of senior care bots. In reply to a query from an AARP reporter (my buddy Ed Baig), Raibert stated he’d had the expertise of caring for his 88-year-old aunt within the final days of her life and, “I do assume there’s a possibility. I believe having robots that may assist with these duties is actual.” Raibert additionally believes that value could also be much less of a difficulty as a result of there are deeper pockets for elder-care bots than there can be for client robots.
It is actually one thing Raibert needs. Whereas not revealing his age, Raibert stated he is properly into the vary of the AARP viewers. ‘I don’t need my youngsters to should get me dressed within the morning. I need a robotic to do this,” he stated
Boston Dynamics robots are already at work in harsh and troublesome environments, in addition to doing such customary manufacturing facility work as patrolling the stock aisles. So ought to nurses and residential well being aides concern for his or her jobs? Raibert would not purchase it. He stated robotics usually create jobs within the want for programmers, designers, and restore individuals. “I believe robotics is like each different know-how: automobiles, computer systems, airplanes, lasers. They trigger change, and all that change isn’t dangerous.”
Talking of change, what if — and now hear me out, Boston Dynamics — we reduce the variety of Atlas dance movies in 2022 down by, say, two, and use these cycles to ramp up Spot Lite manufacturing? Only a thought.