Who needs a robodog when you can build a canine centaur robot? - WBCB: The Valley's CW |

Who needs a robodog when you can build a canine centaur robot?

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By Luke Dormehl


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SpotMini, the robot dog created by cutting-edge robotics firm Boston Dynamics, just got an upgrade from robopup to canine centaur — courtesy of a pair of 3D-printed bionic arms. No, it’s not an officially sanctioned Boston Dynamics update, but rather a slickly rendered guerilla marketing showcase of the latest iteration of Italian startup Youbionic’s robotic limbs.

Like Spot, Youbionic’s project has evolved considerably over the years from version to version. We first covered it in 2014, when Youbionic’s project was little more than a plastic hand attached to an electronic switchboard — like “Thing,” the disembodied hand from The Addams Family after a weekend in a Makerspace. From there, it has evolved into a pair of hands, a functional arm and, now, a pair of arms, complete with a robotic spine and the top part of a ribcage.

“This new version of Youbionic is the natural evolution of my work that aims to [build] a complete humanoid,” engineer Federico Ciccarese, the creator of Youbionic, told Digital Trends. “As soon as I completed the study of Youbionic One, [with its] two hands, two arms, and a spine, I immediately imagined seeing it moving in space. I thought of the enormous potential that would have if we could move in the environment in which we live and work. It was at that moment that I was reminded of the fantastic SpotMini of Boston Dynamics that is able to move very well in the environment, but has its capacity to manipulate objects and other limited due to its single [arm and gripper]. I thought this [would be the] perfect fusion!”

For now, of course, this fusion will have to exist only in imagination, and in the 3D software rendering abilities of Ciccarese. That will likely change in the near future, however. While no price has been announced yet, Boston Dynamics has revealed that it will start selling its SpotMini robot in 2019. This will be the first time in Boston Dynamics’ quarter-century history that it will sell its robots to the general public. Meanwhile, the STL files for 3D printing the Youbionic One arms are available on the company’s website for $179. A hard weekend of tinkering and you’ll have your own centaur robot.

“Youbionic’s main mission is to develop robotic devices that can be an alter ego of its owner, designed to be controlled as if we were exactly there,” he said. “[It can] make us get where we can not get, walk on the Martian soil, visit planets, [and] navigate space.”

They are still a way away, of course — but no one can accuse Ciccarese of not dreaming big. In the meantime, if we’re totally honest, we would just be happy to settle for having a two-armed robot dog to walk to the shops. That is sure to get a few heads turning!


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