One parking lot in Massachusetts is witness to a tremendous amount of robo-evolution: outside the office of Boston Dynamics, where the robot-building company routinely tests its latest creations.
Google bought Boston Dynamics in 2013, and its lineup includes Big Dog, a wobbly balancing beast, and the LS3, a new-and-improved robot pack mule for the military. This weekend they debuted Spot, a dog-sized rambling robot.
Weighing in at 160 pounds, Spot is smaller than its brethren but bigger than all but the very largest breeds of dog. And despite being a machine made of metal and circuits, we still experience a visceral reaction each time a researcher kicks Spot. It's ok, we promise--Spot can't feel it, and it recovers just fine.
Like the rest of the Big Dog family of robots, Spot balances eerily well after sudden impacts. It can also climb over rough terrain, up stairs, and over hills. A spinning sensor head constantly scans the terrain, and what looks like a half-ring of foam padding protects the sensor.
Boston Dynamics hasn't said what niche Spot would fill in the real world, if any, but it sure does make a great robo-nosed, bell-jingling machinedeer companion.