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Forget Drones: Google's Robot Dogs Can Make Delivieries

Delivery by drone is so 2016, or at least that's what Google's latest plans suggest. The search giant is reportedly training the ever-so creepy-looking four-legged robots from its Boston Dynamics division to deliver packages and even navigate your home to hand them directly to you.

Image: MIT Technology Review

Image: MIT Technology Review

The news was revealed at a talk titled "Dynamic Legged Robots" at this year's Neural Information Processing Systems conference, which focuses on machine learning and computational neuroscience. The MIT Technology Review reports that at the event, Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert demonstrated Spot Mini, a four-legged robot about the size of a small dog that "figured out for itself how to... navigate the steps up to the stage." Spot Mini even found and picked up a can from a table on command.

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In video clips Raibert played for the crowd, the robots delivered packages to front doors, leading the CEO to suggest “Many people are talking about drone delivery... So why not just plain legged robots?” With all of the complications we've seen with the FAA regulating drone flight, it's not hard to see the benefits of robots bound to the ground.

Spot Mini performed more complicated tasks, including opening "weighted doors with oddly shaped handles" that show its ability to decipher a problem. Spot Mini doesn't utilize machine learning, one of the conference's major focuses, but Raibert noted that adding that technology could give robots an increased ability to balance packages.

The report speculates that legged robots may be better at navigating messy environments (say, your house when you're so lazy you need everything delivered) than wheeled machines. Unfortunately for anyone looking to own their own robo-dog, Boston Dynamics' robots are still mighty pricey, with some units selling for more than $1 million.