Boston Dynamics isn’t the only company that makes futuristic quadrupedal robots. Chinese firm Unitree Robotics has also been at it for years, and this week revealed its latest creation: the Unitree Go1, a robust-looking four-legged bot that’s remarkably cheap, with prices starting at just $2,700. (For comparison, Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot costs $74,500.)
What is the Go1 for, though? Well, a demo video shows it being put to such useful tasks as “following someone on a run” and “carrying a single bottle of water.” Sure it’s not practical to have a robot butler for your phone and wallet, but it makes a statement on a night out.
More realistically, the robotics industry is still exploring the best applications for these sorts of machines. Spot, for example, is currently being tested in areas like industrial inspections and police reconnaissance (with mixed results). Unitree, though, says it wants to make quadrupedal robots as affordable and popular as smartphones and drones. So, a fun demo reel that shows the Go1 just sort of chilling out and looking cool makes perfect sense.
The company only has a basic spec 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 12kg (26 pounds) and the more expensive models come with more processor power and sensors (the Go1 Edu is the only version with an unspecified programming API). It seems automatic person-following and obstacle-avoidance come standard, though only the pricier models hit the advertised top speed of 17km/h. Unitree doesn’t say anything about battery life, either. Though given that Spot only has enough juice for 90 minutes of operation, we’d say that the “all-day companion” mode suggested by the Go1 demo video is a bit of an artful exaggeration.
At any rate, tech like this shows that quadrupedal robots are quickly turning from novelties to commodities. The real question is: can they also be useful, or will they just be carrying our water for years to come.