Spot Mini, a four-legged all-electric robot, was introduced by Boston Dynamics at the end of June 2016. It is the latest model in the line of quadruped robots capable of navigating themselves in space and keeping balance on any surface (concrete, earth, dirt, ice, gravel, etc.). Unlike the earlier versions of the robots replicating the movements of four-legged animals, Spot Mini was not designed to carry heavy loads and help the military. Equipped with a sensitive electric hand, this lightweight robot is meant to perform household chores like picking the garbage and putting dishes into the dishwasher. The company has not yet announced whether it plans to launch the mass production of the model but some optimistic predictions can be made.
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Feasibility – 5. Spot Mini will be successful once introduced to mass production because it possesses a number of characteristics making it more of a consumer good than a specialized unit: it is small, light, and certainly looks more appealing than its heavier and stockier hydraulic forerunners. A complex machine, Spot Mini has a variety of features that can be upgraded, such as, for example, the battery life. Although the prospects of its actual market debut are quite vague, Toyota company is known to take extreme interest in this specific model.
Worthiness – 5. While the bigger robots by Boston Dynamics are designed to operate in extreme conditions, Spot Mini is a household robot, which makes it marketable to a wider community and, therefore, profitable. Besides, this model has a unique feature that has made a revolution in robotics and adds up to its applicability. Its hand is so designed that the robot knows how much force to apply not to break whatever it is holding at the moment (which is precisely the technology Toyota is interested in).
Knowing their strength is natural for a human but not for a robot, which makes this a major achievement. When this technology is harnessed completely, the robots can be used in home health care that requires human contact. They could work as babysitters or nurses looking after the elderly: while at the same time safeguarding the patients’ dignity, the robots could help them with personal hygiene, dressing, and eating as delicately as a human being.
Ethicality – 4. The ethicality of robotics is a hotly debated issue because the public is concerned that robots will “replace” human beings, which ultimately means that many will lose their jobs. In Spot Mini’s case, the unemployment is likely to affect those working in the cleaning business or self-employed cleaners who might be already marginalized and vulnerable. At the same time, the “replacement” of the human workers with robots is highly unlikely because, while being able to operate at greater exactitude and efficiency than humans, robots do not possess full autonomy.
In fact, robotics in general may actually be able to create jobs rather than taking them away from humans, and they will not be confined to technicians and operators. As automation increases, entirely new businesses and fields of robotics-related services will appear, which do not exist now because the field is underdeveloped as it were. Household robots will undoubtedly require human supervision, so Spot Mini and its subsequent versions will probably take cleaning business and its human resources to a higher level rather than degrade.