With a price tag of tens of thousands of dollars, Boston Dynamics’ Spot robodog was a tough sell when it officially went on sale last September. A real dog was much cheaper, and arguably more useful, but as an alternative to an electric car, presenter and all-around geek favourite Adam Savage might have found the perfect way to justify buying a robotic dog.
For those who don’t follow his Tested YouTube channel, Savage was lucky enough to get a loaner Spot robot from Boston Dynamics for a year, and he’s been testing out it and performing fun experiments ever since it was delivered in a giant case a few weeks ago. It’s a remarkable piece of engineering as Savage has gleefully experienced first hand, but out of the box, it can’t fetch the morning paper, scare off intruders, or even lead the visually impaired. So what good is Spot aside from making entertaining YouTube content?
The robot definitely has lots of potential for military applications, as its ability to deftly scamper over uneven terrain, and even rubble, makes it a great tool for reconnaissance where it’s too dangerous for humans to tread. But Savage has come up with a brilliant use for Spot for the rest of us after creating a single passenger rickshaw the robot can easily pull around.
Spot might not be as strong as Boston Dynamics’ other four-legged creations like Big Dog, which can potentially carry more cargo than a horse or a mule, but it’s still more than strong enough to support the balanced load of a rickshaw on its back, and physically pull it around. Compared to an electric car, navigating this electric vehicle (Spot runs on rechargeable batteries) is much easier as you could potentially steer it onto the pavement to avoid traffic jams. And because Spot is programmable with a host of sensors packed into it, there’s even the potential to create the world’s first autonomous rickshaw where you simply tell it where you need to go and then sit back and enjoy the ride – without needing to tip anyone afterwards.