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Sooner or later it had to happen, Xiaomi the number one smartphone producer in 2021 revealed a new dog-like robot named CyberDog: an experimental, open-source machine that the firm says “holds unforetold possibilities.”

CyberDog
Image credit: theverge.com

It’s no wonder that CyberDog resembles Spot so much. The US firm Boston Dynamics was the first company to produce quadrupedal robots for commercial usage. Spot went on sale last year for $74,500 and has been put to a range of uses, from surveying dangerous mines to helping doctors connect with patients remotely. According to The Verge’s original article Spot has also been tested by law enforcement and the military, though not as a weapon.

Xiaomi doesn’t give any explanations for what purpose the company developed CyberDog. In a press release the company said that this robot will have the open-source nature of the machine’s design. Xiaomi also noticed that it’ll be a limited offer as the company plans to release only 1000 units for “Xiaomi Fans, engineers, and robotic enthusiasts.” The company believes that these enthusiasts will unleash the potential of quadruped robots fully. The first 1,000 units will cost just 9,999 Yuan, or roughly $1,540 (though it’s not clear if this price will be the same for any future releases).

In the same material the company noticed that they provided CyberDog with a pet-like nature. It has the ability to receive and respond to voice commands and come after the owner as a real pet. Looking at pictures of CyberDog, though, it’s clear Xiaomi isn’t pitching the machine as a rival to Aibo, Sony’s own robot canine. Aibo is a cute lil robot while CyberDog is a futuristic mecha machine. 

Xiaomi says CyberDog is nimble enough to perform backflips, has a maximum payload of 3kg, and can trot along at speeds of 3.2m/s (compared to Spot’s 1.6m/s). It’s powered by Nvidia’s Jetson Xavier AI platform and is equipped with an array of cameras and sensors. These include touch sensors, a GPS module, an ultra-wide-angle fisheye lens, and Intel’s RealSense D450 camera for depth-sensing. These components enable the robot to navigate semi-autonomously.

“CyberDog can analyze its surroundings in real-time, create navigational maps, plot its destination, and avoid obstacles. Coupled with human posture and face recognition tracking, CyberDog is capable of following its owner and darting around obstructions,”says Xiaomi.

The machine can also respond to voice commands, including recognizing wake words and instructions, or it can be controlled using a connected smartphone app.

CyberDog also has three USB-C ports and one HDMI port, which Xiaomi says can be used to customize its hardware. The company suggests lidar sensors, panoramic cameras, and search lights could all be added to the robot.

The release of CyberDog is an interesting case, though it’s still not a core subject for the company to emphasise all forces. Instead, it says a lot about the current robotics landscape and the accessibility of this tech. 

Boston Dynamics popularized the quadrupedal format for robots, and companies around the world are now exploring exactly how and where such machines can be deployed effectively. The price of this hardware has been falling though, allowing for new use-cases to be explored. Earlier this year, Chinese robotics firm Unitree released a quadrupedal bot that cost just $2,700, and Xiaomi’s own CyberDog undercuts that again. Obviously, the capability of these machines will not be identical, but broader access to the technology will show whether it’s worth these firms pursuing at all.

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