Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot was the star attraction at TechCrunch Robotics Sessions conference at U.C. Berkeley, California, on Friday.
The four-legged machine strutted in front of the marveling crowd of robot enthusiasts, looking for or presenting the next big thing in the robotics industry.
Founder Marc Raibert said at the conference that the SpotMini is currently in preproduction and will be on sale starting in 2019. Boston Dynamics plans to build about 100 over the next year to be sold for commercial use.
Conference attendees were in awe of the SpotMini.
“Robots are running away with technoogy,” said Julie Cecchetti, a student at Penn State University who someday hopes to work in robotics research.
The increasing agility of robots is transforming industries from from agriculture to warehousing.
Soft Robotics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses pliable robotic arms in its machines, packing delicate items like eggs and picking tomatoes off trees.
Driscoll’s, the largest berry distributor in the world, is testing out an automatic strawberry harvester.
And John Deere is also investing heavily in technology, automating its tractors and combines, which are outfitted with computer vision technology.
“Like facial technology, it goes through the fields. It identifies weeds versus crops,” says Alex Purdy, Head of John Deere Labs,
Purdy also says automation also addresses the labor shortage among field workers.
In the warehousing industry, startups like Fetch are doing some heavy lifting. Its robots move around autonomously, working alongside humans and carrying heavy cargo.
“We can take something from the manufacturing plant and put it into a conveyor,” says the company’s CEO, Melonee Wise. “We have the heart of the robot that can connect to a cart and move it around so when you put a whole bunch of packages in a cart, the robot can come pick up the cart.”
Some enthusiasts say robots are headed for even greater things.
Just as phones over the last couple of decades have gone from a novelty to being ubiquitous, I think that’s going to gradually happen with robots in our lives,” says robot enthusiast Bhaskara Marthi.