We dog owners consider the four-legged members of our families priceless. But what’s the cost when the canine in question is not exactly a living breathing creature?
Try nearly 75-grand, the price of the Boston Dynamics' Spot Explorer robot that went on sale online this week, an awful lofty sum to, um, chew on.
Make no mistake, though, Spot isn’t meant to be a robotic substitute for an actual pet, even along the lines of Sony’s Aibo, which upon its debut late in the last century fetched the rough equivalent of 2,500 U.S. dollars.
Instead, Boston Dynamics is selling Spot to businesses, to use the robot for tasks such as documenting construction progress, or monitoring hazardous environments.
The Spots that have already been put to use under an early adopter leasing program helped out at power generation facilities, decommissioned nuclear sites, factory floors, construction sites, and research laboratories. Spots even danced on stage at theme parks.
The yellow-covered 105-pound robot can perform tricks that might even impress Fido. Though for what it's worth, back in the day my Maltese didn’t pay an Aibo I was reviewing much mind, at least after being initially curious.
Spot can move at 3 miles-per-hour, run for 90 minutes with no payload between charges—the battery is swappable—open doors and climb up and down stairs. It can also schlep about 30 pounds, avoid obstacles—it has 360-degree vision--and pick itself up after a fall. Spot doesn’t mind the elements: it is protected against dust and water and can withstand temperatures between minus 4- and 113-degrees Fahrenheit.
Best of all you need not feed Spot or take it out to poop.
The idea of a robotic pet dates at least as far back as the 1990s, when the Japanese industrial company National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed Paro a robotic baby seal that has been administered to patients in hospitals and eldercare facilities in Japan and Europe.
While I was at USA TODAY, Colin Angle the CEO iRobot, best known for its Roomba robot vacuums, told me that he thought robotic pets could eventually become a multibillion-dollar industry, “for real.” Using facial and image recognition technologies, Angle said such robots could get to “know” their owner and follow them around. But he added that many of the robotic pets that we've seen to date while pretty good robots are not necessarily good pets, partly because it is difficult to make a human connection with them. Many have hard plastic or rubber skins or behave in a jerky or non-fluid way.
Spot seems pretty nimble, at least based on the videos I’ve seen of the robot in action. But even if you can afford Spot, don’t even think of the robot as a potential pet. Spot is not certified for in-home use or considered safe around kids.