The dancing robots are coming

Do you love me, the Boston Dynamics robots dubbed “Spot, Atlas and Handle” ask us?

These smart mobility robots continue to take the internet by storm, with this latest video certainly changing the narrative from the “robot abuse” feedback the company received back in 2016. It’s interesting to see how public perception of robots can be so heavily influenced by creative video content – and how relatable dancing is!  

Web Summit

Spot was one of my personal highlights of WebSummit19 in Lisbon in that pre-Covid travelling time, winning over the sizeable crowds with canine-like appeal.  

Primarily a research company, Boston Dynamics is ramping up commercialisation selling 400 of the Spot autonomous four-legged robots last year, and integrating AI software to process data and draw insights from the environment. Applications for Spot include deployment into dangerous scenarios with testing to date on oil rigs, in electric plants, and in law enforcement with the NYPD (the company had stopped accepting defense contracts in 2014 when acquired by Google). Boston Dynamics’ recent acquisition by Hyundai is a seriously strategic move, with mobile robotics expected to play a major role in the smart cities of the future. Hyundai plans to incorporate the smart mobility technology into its advanced development of autonomous cars and air transportation.

For the year ahead, expect to see a lot more of autonomous robots and automation technologies. Robotics predictions for 2021 include:

  • Uptake in autonomous robots in stores and warehouses, sharing real-time inventory updates and accurate product location data with mobile shopping apps, online order pickers and in-store pickup services.
  • Increased ‘payload’ options beyond specific tasks, matching automated workflows to meet operational needs.
  • Multipurpose robots will continue to replace humans in areas such as store scanning and order taking.
  • Technology convergence with autonomous robots teaming up with in-store technologies such as fixed cameras, drones and all types of sensors to enhance data-collection capabilities. Basically, real-time visibility with enhanced robotic “sensing” abilities (such as detection of certain gases emitted when foods lose freshness).
  • 5G – investments in the latest wireless technology are going to pay off in many aspects of retail as it promises to unleash new experiences. Expect 5G to go from pilot to production phase throughout the retail industry.

The dancing robots are coming. Watch out for their next moves.