Ten Spotpower robots haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot. Boston Dynamics/Youtube
INTERNATIONAL - Boston Dynamics’ latest video of its four-legged robot, SpotMini, is just over a minute long.

But that’s all the time it takes to impress upon viewers that the technology company has developed machines capable of pulling a full-size box truck up a slight incline.

An individual SpotMini can carry 14kg, but the crew of robots apparently contains enough collective power to pull a vehicle that probably weighs at least 4.5 tons. It takes 10 of the 30kg robots - hitched together like metallic sled dogs and marching with military precision - to get the vehicle rolling.

The video left many YouTube viewers uneasy.

“Boston Dynamics chief executive: ‘Okay, team. We haven’t freaked out the YouTube crowd in about two weeks’,” a viewer named Scott Davidson wrote. “‘We need to stay on top of it. What have you got?’”

“Wow now that they are making an army all they need to do is give those spots mounted machine guns and the end of the world is near,” a viewer with the username BlitzSterz said.

Boston Dynamics appears to delight in dropping simple yet startling videos without warning, showing stunning advances in robotic technology without much context or comment. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its latest video, but a caption at the bottom hinted at the machine’s commercial debut:

“These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon,” the caption states.


News about the SpotMini hitting the market has been public for months.

Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics’ founder, told an audience at the CeBIT Computer expo in Hanover, Germany, last year that his company was testing the SpotMini with potential customers from four industries: security, delivery, construction and home assistance. Raibert also predicted that his company’s robots could one day be used for “warehouse logistics” or to clean up dangerous environments such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster site, where human workers are at risk.

“This robot will be available next year,” he said at the time, referring to SpotMini. “We’ve built 10 by hand, we’re building 100 with manufacturers at the end of this year, and in the middle of 2019, we’re going to begin production at the rate of about 1000 a year.”

The robotics company says the machine is 0.8m tall and remains the quietest robot the company has built. It’s electric, has 17 joints and can run for 90 minutes on a single charge.

“We designed this robot to be small enough so that it could fit inside an office, or even some day a home,” Raibert said.