Boston Dynamics is not the only firm producing future quadrupedal robots. Unitree Robotics, a Chinese company, has been at it for years and has presented its latest creation: the Unitree Go1, a sturdy-looking four-legged robot with prices starting at $2,700. (Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot, for example, costs $74,500.)
But what is the Go1 for? A sample video shows it performing helpful chores like “following someone on a run” and “carrying a single bottle of water.” Sure, having a robot butler for your phone and wallet isn’t practical, but it makes a statement on a night out.
In reality, the robotics industry is still investigating the optimal uses for these types of devices. Spot, for example, is presently being explored in sectors like industrial inspections and police surveillance (with mixed results). Unitree, on the other hand, claims that it wishes to make quadrupedal robots as inexpensive and popular as smartphones and drones. As a result, a pleasant demo reel showing the Go1 just hanging out and looking nice makes perfect sense.
The company’s website only offers a limited spec sheet for the robot, but here’s what we do know. The Go1 is available in three models: the $2,700 Go1 Air, the $3,500 Go1, and the $8,500 Go1 Edu. Each weighs approximately 12kg (26 pounds), and more expensive models include more Computer resources and sensors (the Go1 Edu is the only version with an unspecified programming API). Automatic person-following and obstacle avoidance seem to be basic features; however, only the more expensive models reach the stated peak speed of 17km/h. Unitree also makes no mention of battery life. Given that Spot only has 90 minutes of battery life, we’d say the Go1 demo video’s suggestion of an “all-day companion” option is a bit of an artistic exaggeration.
In any case, technology like this demonstrates that quadrupedal robots are rapidly transitioning from curiosities to realities. The real question is whether they can also be helpful or if they will simply carry our water for years to come.