Robo-dogs spark consumer race for tech pets

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Whether they’ve been designed as tools or as pets, dog-inspired robots have been around for quite a while now.

Everybody’s seen the viral videos of Boston Dynamics’ four-legged ‘Spot’ and the news broke earlier in the summer that a ‘Spot Mini’ would be made available for sale at some point this year.

While there’s already been significant interest from the construction industry in the Spot Minis, their range of skills are broad enough to perform other roles such as security guards, site inspectors and they’ve even been beta tested for playgrounds.

"There's a remarkable number of construction companies we're talking to," said Boston Dynamics’ CEO Marc Raibert . "But we have some other applications that are very promising, [such as] in hostile environments where the cost of having people there is high."

Swiss company ANYbotics have recently unveiled their own canine-like effort, ANYmal C. The ANYmal has been designed for the purpose of inspecting oil rigs and is both dust-proof and water-proof, making it robust enough to work in even the most difficult conditions. It can also walk autonomously, run, climb and pick itself back up if it gets knocked down.

“ANYmal C [was] primarily developed to perform autonomous routine inspections in industrial environments,” said Dr. Christian Gehring, CTO and co-founder of ANYbotics.

“In addition to this exciting field, we continue to explore a range of other applications. To this end, we closely collaborate with engineering and research partners, and offer an easy expandability of ANYmal C …. For example, ANYmal C can be equipped with a NVIDIA Jetson Xavier graphics card for learning-based applications.”

Anybotics co-founder Péter Fankhauser said: “If there’s a huge amount of infrastructure that needs to be inspected regularly for safety and efficiency, that’s something a robot can really help with. Especially if it’s potentially hazardous, like mines or offshore oil and gas stations. In those scenarios, it makes sense to keep people out and deploy a robot instead — both from a security and a cost perspective.”

“If there’s a huge amount of infrastructure that needs to be inspected regularly for safety and efficiency, that’s something a robot can really help with. Especially if it’s potentially hazardous, like mines or offshore oil and gas stations. In those scenarios, it makes sense to keep people out and deploy a robot instead — both from a security and a cost perspective.”

On the other end of the scale, Sony’s ‘Aibo’ is a robotic version of a more typical, house-trained pet. First introduced back in the 1990s, Sony released the latest model in 2018.

It is expected that companion robots, a small category within the consumer robot market, will grow at the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2016 and 2022.

However, due to the facial recognition technology used in the Aibos, their owners do have concerns over privacy issues.

With the consumer robot market also expected to grow from $3.8 billion in 2015 to $31.4 billion by 2022, there’s sure to be even more innovations of this kind coming thick and fast in the near future.

 

Image source: ANYbotics 

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