R1.9 million can now buy you a surveillance-ready ‘robot dog’ in South Africa

Boston Dynamic’s Spot. (Supplied)

  • The industrial version of the somewhat intimidating Boston Dynamics Spot robot is now available for sale in South Africa.
  • It is aimed at mining companies, but the local distributor is looking at security applications for the autonomous walking machine.
  • It’ll set you back some R1.9 million.
  • As a party conversation piece, it may have some drawbacks.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

In September, the University of Johannesburg proudly announced its acquisition of a “robot dog”, the Spot from Boston Dynamics, in what it said was an African first. Two months later, the four-legged robot that is capable of autonomous walking in rough terrain – and has seen military testing for possible combat use – is now commercially available. And there is no reason it can’t show up patrolling security estate perimeters for those who can afford it, at some R1.9 million per unit.

Mining technology company Dwyka launched the robot this week, with an eye on “‘no-go’ and ‘fly low’ mining areas”. In the United States, the robots have been used in bomb disposal, and it has been used for monitoring work in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. But there is no reason Spot can not be used for security surveillance, Dwyka Mining Services MD Jamie van Schoor told Business Insider South Africa, and the company is already looking at “a number of security applications”.

Boston Dynamics has strict rules against weaponising its robots, but if you aren’t happy with its stereo cameras in the front (plus more on the side and rear), the company will sell you a £30,000 payload camera that provides 360-degree views, or a version with thermal imaging for closer to £40,000, both with 30x optical zoom. Spot can also carry any other payload below 14kg, and comes ready for repetitive autonomous missions, such as walking the same path, out of the box. In September Hyundai, the majority owner of Boston Dynamics, announced it would use Spot as a night patroller at a factory in South Korea, in part to test its ability to help out with safety through its ability to detect things such as open doors.

The robots are not certified for use in a home environment and are strictly intended for industrial areas. But should anyone want to buy one as a conversation piece, they are welcome to do so, said Van Schoor. The robot will be perfectly capable of carrying a tray loaded with champagne flutes around a garden party – just with no guarantee it won’t break any. 

Watch the promo video for the enterprise version of Spot here:

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(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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