Boston Dynamics today opened commercial sales of Spot, its quadruped robot that can climb stairs and traverse rough terrain. Businesses can purchase the Spot Explorer developer kit for $74,500 at shop.bostondynamics.com. Spot Explorer includes the robot, two batteries, the battery charger, the tablet controller, a robot case, a power case, and Python client packages for Spot APIs. Boston Dynamics will also be selling Spot payloads, and customers will get software updates “when available.” The company is offering free shipping for a limited time — the website currently states that Spot Explorer ships in six to eight weeks.
The announcement marks a couple of milestones for the company founded in 1992. It’s the first time businesses can purchase a Boston Dynamics robot directly. It’s also the company’s first online sales offering. Spot is only for sale in the U.S. for commercial and industrial use, but the company hopes to expand internationally this year. “We plan to manufacture around a thousand Spots in the next year but can increase that based on the demand,” a Boston Dynamics spokesperson told VentureBeat. “We are exploring opportunities for enabling sales overseas this year.” The company was originally planning to finish building 1,000 Spots by mid-2020, but the coronavirus pandemic disrupted that timeline.
You can only buy up to two Spots via Boston Dynamics’ shopping portal. If you want more units, the company has two other pricing tiers: Academic (discount for accredited educational institutions) and Enterprise (more sensors, software integration, communications infrastructure, and robot fleet management). Businesses will have to contact the sales team about larger purchases and third-party solutions.
Boston Dynamics has a timely sales pitch. COVID-19 has opened the door wider to autonomous technologies like drones and robots. As businesses cautiously reopen, everyone is desperate for technology that can limit human contact. In April, Boston Dynamics open-sourced its health care robotics toolkit after deploying a Spot unit to help a hospital’s health care providers remotely triage patients. The Spot robot featured an iPad and a two-way radio for video conferencing. Spot’s modular platform (mounting rails, payload ports, and SDK) is what sets it apart.
Spot add-ons and payloads
Boston Dynamics designed Spot to “go where other robots can’t go and to perform a broad number of tasks.” Thanks to its add-ons, Spot can be reconfigured for use cases ranging from increasing efficiency to reducing safety risks.
Boston Dynamics is selling the following Spot add-ons on its website:
- Spot battery: $4,620
- Spot charger: $1,650
- Spot GXP, regulated power and Ethernet port: $1,275
- Spot CAM, color panoramic view and communication capabilities: $21,800
- Spot CAM+, a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera for detailed inspection: $29,750
- Spot EAP, lidar: $18,450
- Spot EAP+, lidar with Spot CAM: $34,570
- Spot Core, edge CPU for dedicated processing of on-robot computation: $3,925
- Spot Core AI, edge GPU for advanced processing of on-robot computation: $24,500
Boston Dynamics is also offering a premium service plan with one year of extended coverage and expedited repair for $15,000.
Spot use cases
Spot was previously only available for short-term lease under Boston Dynamics’ Early Adopter Program. Through the program, over 150 Spot robots were placed in domestic and international businesses and research facilities. The company says it will continue to lease Spot robots to customers in select international markets via the program.
Boston Dynamics highlighted how Spot has helped a few early adopters:
- Saved approximately 20 hours of work per week by automating the capture of nearly 5,000 images weekly on Quebec-based construction firm Pomerleau’s 500,000 square foot building project.
- Increased data-collection efficiency and safety in Hensel Phelps’ construction of Denver International Airport’s main terminal and automated the capture of laser scans and 360-degree images to reduce the risk of return visits and project delays.
- Leveraged computer vision-based anomaly detection software to reduce human risk in potentially dangerous tasks for Aker BP’s energy production facilities.
- Autonomously navigated underground terrain with NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Team CoSTAR’s integrated autonomy, perception, and communication tools, an application that won the most recent DARPA Subterranean Challenge Competition: the Urban Circuit.
Spot robots have been used to document construction progress, monitor remote or hazardous environments, and provide situational awareness in environments like power generation facilities, decommissioned nuclear sites, factory floors, construction sites, and research laboratories. Spot has also been used to explore projects for creative industries, such as dancing on stage and performing in theme parks.
Now that any business can purchase a Spot, we asked the company whether it would sell to police departments. “To the extent that our robots are designed to take on tasks that may prove dangerous to human safety for public safety officers, like inspecting a suspicious package or responding to hazmat incidents, yes, Spot is available for purchase,” a Boston Dynamics spokesperson told VentureBeat. “However, they are not designed to replace police officers or carry out the work done by police officers. Our standard terms, which prohibit using the robots to physically harm or intimidate people, apply to all customers.”
Pick, Handle, and Atlas
In addition to Spot, Boston Dynamics also sells Pick, its robot that can manipulate boxes, thanks to a 3D-vision system. In November, when we interviewed then-CEO Marc Raibert, he categorized the company’s next three robots by time: today (Spot), tomorrow (Handle), and the future (Atlas).
Handle is the mobile version of Pick. Raibert called it the “tomorrow” robot because Pick was still in the prototype stage. At the time, Raibert expected it to ship in about a year and a half (i.e. 2021).
Raibert called Atlas the “future” robot because it’s always in the prototype stage. At the time, Raibert didn’t think the company would ever ship Atlas.
We asked for an update on these robots. “Handle should be available for sale in the next two years, and we have no plans to commercialize Atlas at this point,” a Boston Dynamics spokesperson told VentureBeat. Handle’s timeline might be slipping, while plans for Atlas have not changed. Today, Spot is for sale.
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