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Boston Dynamics has been using its robot ‘dog’ to deliver packages in Boston

A robot is already as good as a human worker (for certain tasks) about two-thirds of the time. 

Boston Dynamics

Though Boston Dynamics has been building impressive — albeit often terrifying — legged robots for decades, the company hasn’t had much traction finding commercial applications for its agile machinery.

Its robots were largely funded by military contracts before Google bought Boston Dynamics in 2013.

But at the TED 2017 conference today, Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert admitted his company has been testing how it can put its robots to work in more marketable ways.

Raibert showed a video of Spot, one of Boston Dynamics’ four-legged dog-like robots, delivering a package strapped to its back to someone’s front door.

“We’ve been taking our robot to our employees’ homes to see whether we could get in the various access ways,” said Raibert onstage at TED. “We’re doing very well — about 70 percent of the way.”

Raibert also showed videos of Atlas, its bipedal access robot, working on a factory floor moving boxes to a conveyor belt, which he said is now working at two-thirds of the average speed of a human worker.

The latest robot Boston Dynamics showed off, Handle, was described by Raibert as “nightmare inducing” when he unveiled the machine at a conference last month. Handle is a legged robot that can jump over hurdles and land on its wheeled feet, lift a single leg while moving, stroll in the snow and go down stairs, as well as carry up to 100 pounds.

At TED, Raibert also said that, using 3-D printing, his team has been able to build robot parts that mimic the anatomy of an animal, helping them reduce the weight of their humanoid robot by over 200 pounds.

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