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SpotMini and Marc Raib
Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert points out the cameras on his company’s SpotMini robotic dog, including a “butt-cam.” (TechCrunch via YouTube)

Cue the “Black Mirror” theme music: Boston Dynamics says it’s putting its scary SpotMini robotic dog on sale next year.

The company’s founder, Marc Raibert, made the announcement on Friday at a TechCrunch robotics event at the University of California at Berkeley.

“SpotMini is in pre-production now.  We’ve built 10 units that’s a design that’s close to a manufacturable design. We built them in-house, but with help from contract, manufacturing-type people,” Raibert said.

“We have a plan later this year to build 100 with contract manufacturers,” he said, “and that’s the prelude to getting them in a higher-rate production which we hope to start in the middle of next year.”

Raibert declined to say what the price will be. Potential applications could range from surveillance to office deliveries to home chores.

The SpotMini sales announcement came a day after Boston Dynamics released a video that shows the four-legged robot taking a six-minute jog through a real-world office and lab facility (condensed into a three-minute clip).

The real trick to SpotMini’s trek, including its travel up and down some sketchy-looking staircases, is that it’s done autonomously.

“Before the test, the robot is manually driven through the space so it can build a map of the space using visual data from cameras mounted on the front, back and sides of the robot,” Boston Dynamics explained. “During the autonomous run, SpotMini uses data from the cameras to localize itself in the map and to detect and avoid obstacles. Once the operator presses ‘Go’ at the beginning of the video, the robot is on its own.”

A second video that was released on Thursday shows Boston Dynamics’ Atlas android jogging through a field and jumping over a log. The robot demonstrates a sense of balance on a par with its backflipping stunt from last November.

When November’s video hit YouTube, billionaire techie Elon Musk issued a dark warning about where this all is going:

It may be mere coincidence that Boston Dynamics released its latest videos while government officials, industry executives and researchers gathered at the White House for a summit on artificial intelligence. But this week’s developments seem well-suited for the opening scenes of a “Terminator” movie reboot.

Sweet dreams, Elon …

This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 4:59 p.m. PT May 10.

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