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Boston Dynamics gives its robot dog a developer SDK

Steve Dent
Associate Editor
Boston Dynamics

Now that Spot is more clever and polite, Boston Dynamics is ready to set it free. The Softbank-owned robotics company announced that it's making Spot's SDK available to anyone who wants it via GitHub, starting today. The release will allow developers and even non-traditional roboticists "develop custom applications that enable Spot to do useful tasks across a wide range of industries," said Boston Dynamics VP Michael Perry.

Until today, only developers in the early adopter program could get the SDK, but now it's freely available to all as open-source code. However, developers will still need to become early adopters if they want to lease a robot to test their code, Boston Dynamics said. That way, they can "create custom methods of controlling the robot, integrate sensor information into data analysis tools and design custom payloads which expand the capabilities of the base robot platform," according to the company.

By way of example, Boston Dynamics cited a company called HoloBuilder that has used the SDK to add Spot to their existing app. "With what they've developed, workers can use a phone to teach Spot to document a path around a construction site and then Spot will autonomously navigate that path and take 360 images that go right into their processing software," it said. Other uses include security monitoring, laser-scanning and police chores like examining suspicious packages.

Along with the SDK release, Boston Dynamics announced a change in management. Founder a Mark Raibert will become Chairman, ceding his CEO role to former COO and long-time employee Rob Playter. That's part of a larger plan for Boston Dynamics to commercialize its robots like SpotMini, Atlas and now Handle -- and the release of the SDK is a big step towards that goal.