Need A Snack From Across Town? Send Spot!

[Dave Niewinski] clearly knows a thing or two about robots, judging from his YouTube channel. Usually the projects involve robot arms mounted on some sort of wheeled platform, but this time it’s the tune of some pretty famous yellow robot legs, in the shape of spot from Boston Dynamics. The premise is simple — tell the robot what snacks you want, entirely by voice command, and off he goes to fetch. But, we’re not talking about navigating to the fridge in the same room. We’re talking about trotting out the front door, down the street and crossing roads to visit favorite restaurant. Spot will order the snacks and bring them back, fully autonomously.

Spot’s depth cameras provide localized navigation and object avoidance information
Local AI vision system handles avoiding those pesky moving objects

There are multiple things going here, all of which are pretty big computational tasks. Firstly, there is no cloud-based voice control, ala Google voice or Alexa. The robot works on the premise of full autonomy, which means no internet connectivity for any aspect. All voice recognition, voice-to-text, and speech synthesis are performed locally using the NVIDIA Riva GPU-based AI speech SDK, running on the local NVIDIA Jetson AGX Orin carried on Spot’s back. A front-facing webcam supplies the audio feed for this. The voice recognition application listens for the wake phrase, then turns the snack order into text, for later replay when it gets to the destination. Navigation is taken care of with a Microstrain RTK GNSS module, which has all the needed robustness, such as dual antennas, and inertial fallback for those regions with a spotty signal. Navigation is no use out in the real world on its own, which is where Spot’s depth sensor cameras come in. These enable local obstacle avoidance, as per the usual spot behavior we’ve all seen before. But what about crossing the road without getting tens of thousands of dollars of someone else’s hardware crushed by a passing truck? Spot’s onboard streaming cameras are fed into the NVIDIA dash cam net AI platform which enables real-time recognition of moving obstacles such as cars, humans and anything else that might be wandering around and get in the way. All in all a cool project showing the future potential of AI in robotics for important tasks, like fetching me a beer when I most need it, even if it comes from the local corner shop.

We love robots around here. Robots can mow your lawn, navigate inside your house with a little help from invisible QR Codes, even help out with growing your food. The robot-assisted future long promised, may now be looking more like the present.

22 thoughts on “Need A Snack From Across Town? Send Spot!

    1. There are still train drivers? they should be the first to go, the issue is not the tech, its the legality, they will always want to have a guy to blame at the lowest level. What will happen is that your nameplate might change from driver to operator and you get a bunch more responsibility…

      1. Unions, not scapegoats.

        The drivers often just sit there, collection money. Brakemen were on American trains for 50 years after they no longer had a function. That’s an entire working life, sitting ass. But you had to inherit the job, like port crane operator.

  1. It would be interesting to get to to assess the speed, direction and distance of a vehicle, allowing it to truly know when to cross the road. Perhaps giving it a way to identify zebra crossings and use pelican crossings. Around my local area it wouldn’t get very far, the traffic is far too busy, it would just stand and wait until it got stollen. I wonder if it has the ability to send a message home and ask for help if it gets stuck it picked up and put in a car. Hopefully it also ignores further go fetch commands when it’s already on a mission. I can’t help but worry, as these get better and better, this will result in a thousand of these emerging from over a hill with the sole purpose of removing all the humans.

  2. ” We’re talking about trotting out the front door, down the street and crossing roads to visit favorite restaurant. Spot will the order snacks and bring them back. Fully autonomously.”

    That’ll be the last time you see spot too.

  3. Those things have a huge number of hurdles to overcome, not least of which is human acceptance by the general population. I maintain it would help its cause enormously if it had a proper head with some sort of seeing eyes – that’s just how nature works. Would be much less creepy.

    1. Yes, it should have a proper head. Would also give another mount point for lethal or less-than-lethal armaments when Spot decides it must protect itself, or the signal to exterminate the human population is sent from the central authority.

    1. When I was young and drank can beer, I trained my Labwhiler to fetch beer from the fridge.
      How was I to know he was an alcoholic? To say nothing of his problem with butter. Bad mistake.

      Never train a dog to open the fridge.
      Aside. Tie a towel to the fridge door handle and a dog will figure out how to open it on his own, then will never forget. Great prank.

  4. Sure, no one in a major US city would ever think about stealing your million dollar Boston Robotic robot that is going to pick you up a sandwich. Yeah, that will work out just fine.

    1. Remember “Spot” was built for warfare,
      See Spot.
      See Spot run.
      See Spot attacked.
      See Spot kick attackers ass!
      Funny funny Spot!

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