Boston Dynamics is trying to make another breakout in the industrial robot market.
On Tuesday, the Waltham-based company unveiled some major upgrades to its line of Spot robots, the four-legged machines with an animal-like shape that are better known for their YouTube stunts than commercial deployment.
The additions to Spot aim to change that, including a mechanical arm that can open doors and turn switches or valves on and off. Boston Dynamics also introduced Spot Enterprise, a version that can be programmed to patrol a factory or construction site without a human operator; and new software that enables remote control of Spot robots from any Internet-connected browser.
“Our goal is to make Spot your go-to platform for mobile data collection and manipulation,” said Boston Dynamics chief executive Robert Playter.
In a video announcement, Playter said that since Spot went on sale in June, the company has sold about 400 robots, which are listed at about $75,000. Users include UK-based utility company National Grid, which provides electrical and gas service in much of Massachusetts, as well as the pharmaceutical company Merck and fossil fuel producer BP.
The new Spot arm includes a gripper capable of lifting about 11 pounds. A camera and distance sensor built into the gripper helps the robot figure out the best angle for grabbing an object. The arm is also quite agile; in a video demonstration, a pair of robots used their arms in a game of jump rope, twirling a rope round and round as a third robot jumped over it.
The Spot Enterprise robot can be used to inspect remote or dangerous areas around the clock. The system includes a recharging dock where the machine can power up its battery pack as needed, simply by sitting down. The robot can also be equipped with a thermal imaging camera and an optical camera with a 30X zoom lens for extreme closeups.
In addition, new control software, called Scout, enables workers to steer the robot to any location, shoot closeup images of any object, and use the arm to manipulate doors or controls. “With Scout your team should never have to set foot on a remote or dangerous site to get eyes on a situation,” said Boston Dynamics engineer Chris Bentzel.
The new product introductions come just over a month since Japanese conglomerate SoftBank announced that it has made a deal to sell 80 percent of Boston Dynamics to South Korean automaker Hyundai for about $1 billion.