Boston Dynamics isn’t the only company making futuristic quadrupedal robots. The Chinese company Unitree Robotics has also been at it for years and this week unveiled its latest creation: the Unitr Go1, a robust-looking four-legged bot that is remarkably cheap, with prices starting at just $2,700. (For comparison, Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot costs $74,500.)
What is the Go1 in front of, although? Well, a demo video shows that it is used for useful tasks like ‘following someone on the 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.
More realistically, the robotics industry is still exploring the best applications for these types of machines. For example, Spot is currently being tested in areas such as: industrial inspections and police reconnaissance (with mixed results). However, Unitree says it wants to make quadrupedal robots as affordable and popular as smartphones and drones. So a fun demo reel showing the Go1 just chilling and looking cool makes perfect sense.
The company only has a basic specification sheet for the robot on its site, but here’s what we do know. The Go1 comes in three versions: the $2,700 Go1 Air, $3,500 Go1, and $8,500 Go1 Edu. Each weighs about 12 kg (26 pounds), and the more expensive models come with more processing power and sensors (the Go1 Edu is the only version with an unspecified programming API). It seems that automatic people tracking and obstacle avoidance are standard, although only the more expensive models reach the advertised top speed of 17 km/h. Unitree also says nothing about battery life. While Spot only has enough juice for 90 minutes of use, we’d say the “all-day companion” mode suggested by the Go1 demo video is a bit of an artful exaggeration.
In any case, this kind of technology shows that quadrupedal robots are quickly moving from novelty to commodity. The real question is: can they be useful too, or are they just carrying our water for years to come.