Can Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot find commercial niche?
In a glossy video quite different to the usual, unadorned, straight-from...
The robotics company Boston Dynamics has commercially released its Spot robot.
In a glossy video quite different to the usual, unadorned, straight-from-the-lab videos that have become YouTube sensations, Boston Dynamics officially announced the availability of the platform while also listing its specifications.
These include a runtime of 90 minutes, a payload of 14kg, a programmable API, the ability to self-right, operating temperatures between -20 and 45 degrees Celsius and IP54 water and dust proofing.
Biomimicry, the modelling of machines on biological organisms, has been a key tenet of Boston Dynamics’ work, and Spot is no different, with a perceptible dog-like quality both the name and the video play up to.
Though in mass production, restrictions remain in place on purchasing the robots, with Boston Dynamics shipping “to select early adopters” only, presumably those in industries which Boston Dynamics predicts Spot to be useful in. On its website, such applications include scanning construction sites for comparison, remotely inspecting oil and gas facilities and potentially scouting disaster areas.
It remains to be seen whether the commercialisation of Boston Dynamics technology will be successful. Previously owned by Google, the company was acquired by SoftBank in 2017. It may come down to a matter of cost. CNN spoke to Chris Atkeson, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University, who estimated that the robot would cost businesses as much as a new car – a potentially prohibitive price point.
Straight after the release of the Spot, the company debuted footage of its humanoid Atlas platform performing parkour which has eclipsed the Spot’s announcement in terms of views. Though Atlas is intended as for research, the company is developing two further robots with more self-evident commercial uses. First is the Pick, which is far more recognisable as a typical single-purpose industrial robot. Pick, however, utilises deep-learning to demonstrate a level of autonomy that improves the speed and variety of pickable products. Also targeted towards the packing industry is the Handle, which is able to replicate a human worker as it picks up, moves and stacks items aided by its wheels and deep-learning vision software.
(Image: Boston Dynamics)
Discord buys Sentropy to fight against hate and abuse online
Discord, a popular chat app, has acquired the software company Sentropy to bolster its efforts to combat online abuse and harassment. Sentropy, monitors online networks for abuse and harassment, then offers users a way to block problematic people and filter out messages they don’t want to see.
First launched in 2015 and currently boasting 150 million monthly active users, Discord plans to integrate Sentropy’s own products into its existing toolkit and the company will also bring the smaller company’s leadership group aboard. Discord currently uses a “multilevel” approach to moderation, and a Trust and Safety (T&S) team dedicated to protecting users and shaping content moderation policies comprised 15% of Discord’s workforce as of May 2020.
“T&S tech and processes should not be used as a competitive advantage,” Sentropy CEO John Redgrave said in a blog post on the announcement. “We all deserve digital and physical safety, and moderators deserve better tooling to help them do one of the hardest jobs online more effectively and with fewer harmful impacts.”
Cleanse platforms of online harassment and abuse
Redgrave elaborated on the company’s natural connection with Discord: “Discord represents the next generation of social companies — a generation where users are not the product to be sold, but the engine of connectivity, creativity, and growth. In this model, user privacy and user safety are essential product features, not an afterthought. The success of this model depends upon building next-generation Trust and Safety into every product. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are humbled to work at the scale of Discord and with Discord’s resources to increase the depth of our impact.”
Sentropy launched out of stealth last summer with an AI system designed to detect, track and cleanse platforms of online harassment and abuse. The company emerged then with $13 million in funding from notable backers including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and his VC firm Initialized Capital, King River Capital, Horizons Ventures and Playground Global.
“We are excited to help Discord decide how we can most effectively share with the rest of the Internet the best practices, technology, and tools that we’ve developed to protect our own communities,” Redgrave said.