3074 words Boston Dynamics - Wikipedia

Boston Dynamics is an American engineering and robotics design company founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, Boston Dynamics is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group. The company is a pioneer in the field of robotics and it is one of the most advanced in its domain.[1][2][3]

Boston Dynamics
Founded1992; 28 years ago (1992)
FounderMarc Raibert
United States
ParentGoogle X (2013–2017)
SoftBank Group (2017–present)

Boston Dynamics is best known for the development of a series of dynamic highly-mobile robots, including BigDog, Spot, Atlas, and Handle. These robots are perhaps most familiar to the world through their highly popular videos — the Boston Dynamics YouTube channel, for example, as of May 2020 has 1.72 Million subscribers, making it probably the largest YouTube channel focused on robotics. Since 2019, Spot has been made commercially available, making it the first commercially available robot from Boston Dynamics, with the company stating its intent to commercialize other robots as well, including Handle.

Company historyEdit

The company was founded by Marc Raibert, who spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.[4] Early in the company's history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations featuring characters made with DI-Guy, software for realistic human simulation.[5] Eventually the company started making physical robots—for example, BigDog was a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),[6][7].

On 13 December 2013, the company was acquired by Google X (later X, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) for an unknown price,[8] where it was managed by Andy Rubin until his departure from Google in 2014.[9] Immediately before the acquisition, Boston Dynamics transferred their DI-Guy software product line to VT MÄK, a simulation software vendor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[10] On 8 June 2017, Alphabet Inc. announced the sale of the company to Japan's SoftBank Group for an undisclosed sum.[11] On April 2, 2019, Boston Dynamics acquired the Silicon Valley startup Kinema Systems.[12]



BigDog was a quadrupedal robot created in 2004 by Boston Dynamics, in conjunction with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station.[citation needed] It was funded by the DARPA in the hopes that it would be able to serve as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too rough for vehicles, but the project was shelved after BigDog was deemed too loud to be used in combat.[13][14] Instead of wheels, BigDog used four legs for movement, allowing it to move across surfaces that would defeat wheels. Called "the world's most ambitious legged robot", it was designed to carry 340 pounds (150 kilograms) alongside a soldier at 4 miles per hour (6.4 kilometres/h; 1.8 m/s), traversing rough terrain at inclines up to 35 degrees.[citation needed]


The Cheetah is a four-footed robot that gallops at 28 miles per hour (45 kilometres/h; 13 m/s), which as of August 2012 is a land speed record for legged robots.[15]

A similar but independently developed robot also known as Cheetah is made by MIT's Biomimetic Robotics Lab,[16] which, by 2014, could jump over obstacles while running.[17][18] By 2018 the robot was able to climb stairs.[19]


Around 2010[20] LittleDog was released, it's a small quadruped robot developed for DARPA by Boston Dynamics for research. Unlike BigDog, which is run by Boston Dynamics, LittleDog is intended as a testbed for other institutions. Boston Dynamics maintains the robots for DARPA as a standard platform.[21]

LittleDog has four legs, each powered by three electric motors. The legs have a large range of motion. The robot is strong enough for climbing and dynamic locomotion gaits. The onboard PC-level computer does sensing, actuator control and communications. LittleDog's sensors measure joint angles, motor currents, body orientation and foot/ground contact. Control programs access the robot through the Boston Dynamics Robot API. Onboard lithium polymer batteries allow for 30 minutes of continuous operation without recharging. Wireless communications and data logging support remote operation and data analysis. LittleDog development is funded by the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office.[22]


PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) is a bipedal device constructed for testing chemical protection suits. It is the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.[23]


Legged Squad Support System (LS3), also known as AlphaDog, is a militarized version of BigDog. It is ruggedized for military use, with the ability to operate in hot, cold, wet, and dirty environments.[citation needed]


The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot "Atlas" is a 6-foot (183 centimetres) bipedal humanoid robot, based on Boston Dynamics' earlier PETMAN humanoid robot, and designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks.[citation needed]

In February 2016 Boston Dynamics published a YouTube video entitled "Atlas, The Next Generation" showing a new humanoid robot about 5' 9 inches tall (175 centimetres, about a head shorter than the original DRC Atlas). In the video, the robot is shown performing a number of tasks that would have been difficult or impossible for the previous generation of humanoid robots.[24]

A video posted to the Boston Dynamics channel of YouTube dated 11 October 2018, titled "Parkour Atlas", shows the robot easily running up 2' high steps onto a platform.

Atlas is shown in a September 2019 YouTube video doing "More Parkour".


In a 2018 viral promotional video, a rear part of Spot's casing falls off as it compensates to overcome interference

On June 23, 2016, Boston Dynamics revealed the four-legged canine-inspired Spot which only weighs 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and is lighter than their other products.[25]

In February 2018, a promotional video of the Spot using its forward claw to open a door for another robot reached #1 on YouTube, with over 2 million views. A later video the same month showed Spot persisting in attempting to open the door in the face of human interference. Viewers perceived the robot as "creepy" and "reminiscent of all kinds of sci-fi robots that wouldn't give up in their missions to seek and destroy".[26][27][28]

On May 11, 2018 CEO of Boston Dynamics Marc Raibert on TechCrunch Robotics Session 2018 announced that the Spot robot was in pre-production and preparing for commercial availability in 2019.[29] On its website, Boston Dynamics highlights that Spot is the “quietest robot [they] have built.” The company says it has plans with contract manufacturers to build the first 100 Spots later that year[30] for commercial purposes, with them starting to scale production with the goal of selling Spot in 2019. However, in September 2019, journalists were informed that the robots will not be sold, but they will be given on lease to selected business partners.[31] In November 2019 Massachusetts State Police became the first enforcement agency to use Spot mini as robot cop as well as in the unit's bomb squad.[32]

Since January 23, 2020, Spot's SDK is available for anyone via GitHub. It will allow programmers to develop custom applications for Spot to do various actions that could be used across different industries.[33] On June 16, 2020 Boston Dynamics made Spot available for the general public to purchase at a price of $74500 USD.[34]


Handle is a research robot with two flexible legs on wheels and two "hands" for manipulating or carrying objects. It can stand 6.5 feet (198 centimetres) tall, travel at 9 mph (14.5 kilometres/h) and jump 4 feet (122 centimetres) vertically. It uses electric power to operate various electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles (24 kilometres) on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the other robots by Boston Dynamics, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex.[35][36]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Metalhead (Black Mirror) (2017) features killer-robot dogs resembling, and inspired by, Boston Dynamics robot dogs.[37][38]
  • In June 2019, a parody video went viral across social media in which a robot resembling Atlas was abused, before turning on its human attackers. The video turned out to be the work of Corridor Digital, who used the watermark "Bosstown Dynamics" instead of "Boston Dynamics".[39][40]
  • In Heroes of the Storm (2015), a multiplayer video game by Blizzard Entertainment, playable heroes are able to move quickly through the battleground by using mount called "Project: D.E.R.P.A" which references to one of the Boston Dynamics' quadrupedal robots.[41]
  • The HBO Show Silicon Valley has had two prominent references to the company ‒ an episode featured a robotics company called Somerville Dynamics named after Somerville, a city that neighbors Boston,[42] as well as in the season premiere of Season 3 featured a real Boston Dynamics Spot robot, seen crossing a street.[43]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Danielle Muoio (June 27, 2016). Business Insider are all the crazy-advanced robots built by Google's Boston Dynamics group https://www.businessinsider.com/all-the-crazy-robots-boston-dynamics-has-built-2016-6Ititle=Here are all the crazy-advanced robots built by Google's Boston Dynamics group Check |url= value (help). Retrieved December 22, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ HAL 90210 (15 August 2017). "Robot shelf-stack fail suggests they won't take our jobs just yet". The Guardian. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  3. ^ Liszewskiwebsite=Gizmodo, Andrew (November 7, 2013). "ATLAS: Probably the Most Advanced Humanoid Yet, Definitely Terrifying". Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  4. ^ Daren Fonda (December 10, 2019). "Amazon Warehouses Could Get a Hand From an Innovative Robot". Barron's (newspaper). Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  5. ^ Sharon Foster (November 1, 2001). "Updating Technology Without Upping the Price.(Boston Dynamics completes first phase of catapult trainer upgrade)". National Defense. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  6. ^ David Hambling (March 3, 2006). "Robotic 'pack mule' displays stunning reflexes". New Scientist. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  7. ^ Madrick, Jeff (24 April 2014). "Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  8. ^ "Google is trying to sell Boston Dynamics, the crazy robotics company it bought in 2013 inches.
  9. ^ "Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots", New York Times, December 14, 2013.
  10. ^ "DI-Guy Now Part of VT MÄK", Military Simulation and Training Magazine, December 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Lunden, Ingrid. "SoftBank is buying robotics firms Boston Dynamics and Schaft from Alphabet - TechCrunch".
  12. ^ "Boston Dynamics acquires a 3D vision startup in bid to put its robots to work". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  13. ^ Degeler, Andrii. "Marines' LS3 robotic mule is too loud for real-world combat". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  14. ^ Markoff, John (9 April 2012). "Pentagon Contest to Develop Robots to Work in Disaster Areas". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Goddard, Louis (September 6, 2012). "Cheetah robot sets 28.3 mph speed record, outrunning Usain Bolt". The Verge.
  16. ^ "MIT Cheetah Robot Runs Fast, and Efficiently". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News.
  17. ^ Biomimetics MIT (14 September 2014). "MIT Cheetah robot 2 running fast and jump over an obstacle" – via YouTube.
  18. ^ "MIT reveals how its military-funded Cheetah robot can now jump over obstacles on its own".
  19. ^ Becker, Rachel (July 5, 2018). "MIT's Cheetah 3 robot can run up stairs without watching its steps". The Verge.
  20. ^ "Little Dog by Boston Dynamics". RobotShop. 20 April 2020.
  21. ^ Greenemeier, Larry "DARPA Pushes Machine Learning with Legged LittleDog Robot", Scientific American, April 15, 2008
  22. ^ Greenemeier, Larry. "DARPA Pushes Machine Learning with Legged LittleDog Robot". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  23. ^ "PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) Humanoid Military Robot". Army Technology. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2013-12-17.[unreliable source?]
  24. ^ "Google human-like robot brushes off beating by puny human – this is how Skynet starts". The Register. 24 Feb 2016. Retrieved 3 Jun 2016.
  25. ^ "Boston Dynamic's released Spot Mini".
  26. ^ Ferris, Robert (13 February 2018). "Boston Dynamics' robot dog that opens doors is freaking out the internet". CNBC. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  27. ^ "Boston Dynamics robot fights back against an armed man to open a door and enter a room". The Independent. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  28. ^ "Why are robot-makers trying to outdo each other with terrifying robots?". Salon. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  29. ^ https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/11/boston-dynamics-will-start-selling-its-dog-like-spotmini-robot-in-2019/
  30. ^ "Boston Dynamics to start selling Spot robot as soon as 2019 inches, Dezeen, 17 May 2018
  31. ^ Brandom, Russell (2019-09-24). "Boston Dynamics' Spot is leaving the laboratory". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  32. ^ https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/robots/a29994082/boston-dynamics-spot-bomb-squad/
  33. ^ "Boston Dynamics gives its robot dog a developer SDK". Engadget. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  34. ^ Stieg, Cory (June 22, 2020). "This $75000 Boston Dynamics robot 'dog' is for sale—take a look". CNBC. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  35. ^ Totolos, Bruce (28 February 2017). "Boston Dynamics Reveals Handle - An Amazing Robot". French Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  36. ^ McFarland, Matt (February 28, 2017), Google officially reveals its latest robot, CNN, archived from the original on August 1, 2019, retrieved August 1, 2019
  37. ^ "'Black Mirror' creator explains that 'Metalhead' robot nightmare". EW.com. 29 December 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  38. ^ Bishop, Bryan (5 January 2018). "Black Mirror's Metalhead suggests technological disruption is unavoidable (and terminal)". The Verge. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  39. ^ Daniels, Andrew. "This Video of a Robot Beating Up Humans Is Extremely Satisfying". Popular Mechanics.
  40. ^ Sherry, Sophie. "A video that shows a robot turning on its creators is scary -- but also fake". CNN.
  41. ^ Heroes of the Storm: Join the Resistance! - YouTube
  42. ^ McFarland, Kevin (2015-05-04). "Here's the Profile of Big Head Silicon Valley Claims We Did". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  43. ^ Letzter, Rafi. "'Silicon Valley' used Google's robot dog Spot in its season 3 premiere". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-05-10.

External linksEdit