Today, on YouTube videos, in which anthropomorphic robots jump, run and overcome obstacles, unwittingly provoke thoughts of an approaching machine revolt. But in 1986, even the founder of Boston Dynamics, Mark Raibert, could hardly even imagine that in a third of a century his project would become a pioneer in world robotics. Meanwhile, the success of BD is phenomenal, because this company created the most famous robots in the world, has not released a single commercial model in its entire history.
Mark Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, photo WEB
It all started in the already mentioned 86th, when Mark, who worked in the laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created a one-legged robot that could jump on his leg. This unique design, which looked like a crazed toadstool with a large hat on a thin leg, was a breakthrough in modern robotics and pushed Raibert to organize his own company. However, Boston Dynamics was born only in 1992, “broke away” from the institute in 1995, and presented the first significant projects only at the beginning of the new century.
Raibert was engaged in the creation of robots that could walk, and its development was suddenly interested by the US Department of Defense - so Boston Dynamics received funding. The company's first projects were like child's drawings - strange and awkward. A turkey robot, a flamingo robot, a kangaroo robot and other similar machines preceded the creation of the first serious prototype - a four-legged assistant for the military BigDog.
BigDog robot, photo © hitecher.com
The "big dog" looked more like a small donkey, and it performed its functions - it moved with heavy luggage over any terrain. Another interesting development of that period was the Cheetah sprinter, which reached speeds of up to 45 km / h on a treadmill. His “comrade” RiSE was not able to run fast, but boldly climbed his six limbs on vertical surfaces.
Soon, Boston Dynamics employees began to create mechanisms with hands. Thus appeared the humanoid Atlas and the unique Handle. The latter, unlike previous projects, does not move on its feet, but on wheels, but it is capable of performing useful work - carry and neatly fold cargoes. As for the Atlas, its purpose is to work in natural and man-made disasters. The prototype was created three years ago to participate in competitions organized by the Pentagon.
Atlas, video © Boston Dynamics
In 2013, a new round of history began - Google bought the company. However, this cooperation did not bring any desired results, and four years later the Japanese holding company SoftBank bought the laboratory. Soon, news about new features of old prototypes sprinkled on the Web. So, Atlas learned to do back flips, jump, run and overcome obstacles, and SpotMini (a descendant of BigDog) - to open doors, rise after falls and even dance.
Last summer, the company made a revolutionary statement - in the near future it will begin serial production of a new generation of SpotMini robots. This is the first commercial production model of BD, and it is most adapted for operation in the home or in the workplace.
SpotMini, video © Boston Dynamics
Orange dog robots develop a speed of 1.6 m / s, operate in the temperature range from -20 to + 45ºС, are not afraid of water, dust and shock, and are also equipped with cameras that provide a full circular view. The updated design has acquired a robotic arm with spatial stabilization, which significantly expands the range of capabilities of “dogs”.
So far, their limited lot will be shipped to companies involved in construction, energy, public safety and so on. In the future, according to Mark Raibert, his team will improve the characteristics of SpotMini and will probably launch them in free sale. And how to use such an assistant in everyday life - everyone will think up for himself.