Boston Dynamics puts its robotic quadruped Spot up for sale

Since the days of BigDog, the quadrupedal robots of Boston Dynamics have impressed and repelled us. But while the early, bulky robots never felt like something we’d see in real life, the company’s latest and greatest creation, Spot, is not only quite real but now for sale — in fact, some people have had them for months already.

Boston Dynamics announced that Spot, previously known as SpotMini, would be its first commercial product on our stage at TC Sessions: Robotics last year — and we got the first peek at the production version at this year’s conference in May. It’s an incredibly impressive and flexible robotics platform capable of navigating a variety of environments and interacting with many everyday objects and obstacles. And while today is the first day of official sales, there are already robots out there in use.

“We’re putting Spots out into the wild as we speak,” Boston Dynamics VP of business development Michael Perry told TechCrunch. “Last month we started delivering robots to customers, as part of an early adopter program.The question we’re posing to these early customers is ‘what do you think spot can do for you that’s valuable?’ We had some initial ideas, but it’s all our thinking and the hope is that this program will enable a whole new set of use cases.”

The early adopter program is lease-based rather than a straight purchase, but there’s no shortage of customers who want to own their Spot outright. The cost of one of the robots varies, but think tens of thousands of dollars — this isn’t a hobby bot.

“The general guidance is that the entire early adopter program is going to be about the price of a car, but how nice of a car depends on a lot,” said Perry.

Some people might want a barebones platform that they can integrate their own sensing and interaction tech onto. Others might want a fully functional robot that they can plug into their existing automation workflow.

But either way it will take some work on the part of the customer. Spot isn’t going to inspect that oil pipeline or patrol a facility with the push of a button. It’s a powerful, flexible legged robot platform, but Boston Dynamics isn’t running a turn-key service.

“We’re now at a phase where we don’t have to send out 12 engineers with the robot,” said Perry. “Say a customer wants to operate it close to people — it needs to detect people and change its behavior. That’s totally possible. We can actually leave it with them, give them access to our Github repo, and say ‘have at it.’ But if someone says they just want it built into the robot… We want people to have realistic expectations about what it can do.”

That said, you don’t need to present a whole whitepaper on your intentions. A lot of companies just want to buy a couple of these guys to play around with and test. If you’re one of those, or perhaps a smaller operation with more specific goals in mind, get in touch with Boston Dynamics and its sales team via the link here.

“We have a deluge of people emailing us,” he lamented. “Some are legitimate applications, but some just want Spot as a pet, or to get them a beer from the fridge. It would be thrilling to accommodate them, but we’re not quite there yet.”

No word on when you’ll be able to buy an Atlas.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The Alexa-enabled Big Mouth Billy Bass is real and now for sale

In September, Amazon launched its Alexa Gadgets Toolkit into beta, allowing hardware makers to build accessories that pair with Amazon Echo over Bluetooth. Today, one of the most memorable (and quite ridiculous) examples of that technology is going live. Yes, I’m talking about the Alexa-enabled Big Mouth Billy Bass, of course. You know, the talking fish that hangs on the wall, and has now been updated to respond to Alexa voice commands?

Amazon first showed off this technology over a year ago at an event at its Seattle headquarters, then this fall confirmed the talking fish would be among the debut products to use its new Alexa Gadgets Toolkit.

The toolkit lets developers build Alexa-connected devices that use things like lights, sound chips or even motors, in order to work with Alexa interfaces like notifications, timers, reminders, text-to-speech, and wake word detection.

The talking fish can actually do much of that.

According to the company’s announcement, Big Mouth Billy Bass can react to timers, notifications, and alarms, and can play Amazon Music. It can also lip sync to Alexa spoken responses when asked for information about the weather, news, or random facts.

And it will sing an original song, “Fishin’ Time.”

When the gadget is plugged in and turned on, it responds: “Woo-hoo, that feels good!”

(Oh my god, who is getting this for me for Christmas?)

“This is not your father’s Big Mouth Billy Bass,” said Vice President of Product Development at Gemmy Industries, Steven Harris, in a statement about the product’s launch. “Our new high-tech version uses the latest technology from Amazon to deliver a hilarious and interactive gadget that takes everyday activities to a fun new level.”

The fish can be wall-mounted on displayed using an included tabletop easel, the company also says.

The pop culture gag gift was first sold back in 1999, and is now updating is brand for the Alexa era.

Obviously, Big Mouth Billy Bass is not a product that was ever designed to be taken seriously – but it should be interesting to see if the updated, “high-tech version” has any impact on this item’s sales.

The idea to integrate Alexa into the talking fish actually began in 2016, when an enterprising developer hacked the fish to work with Alexa much to the internet’s delight. His Facebook post showcasing his work attracted 1.8 million views.

The Alexa-connected fish is $ 39.99 on Amazon.com.

(h/t Business Insider)

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The Xbox Adaptive Controller goes on sale today and is also now part of the V&A museum’s collection

In an important move for inclusion in the gaming community, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, created for gamers with mobility issues, is now on sale. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) also announced today that it has acquired the Xbox Adaptive Controller for display in its Rapid Response gallery dedicated to current events and pop culture.

First introduced in May, the Xbox Adaptive Controller can now be purchased online for $ 99.99. To create the controller, Microsoft collaborated with gamers with disabilities and limited mobility, as well as advisors from several organizations, including the AbleGamers Charity, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Special Effect and Warfighter Engaged.

According to Microsoft, the Xbox Adaptive Controller project first took root in 2014 when one of its engineers spotted a custom gaming controller made by Warfighter Engaged, a non-profit that provides gaming devices for wounded and disabled veterans. During several of Microsoft’s hackathons, teams of employees began working on gaming devices for people with limited mobility, which in turn gave momentum to the development of the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

In its announcement, the V&A said it added the Xbox Adaptive Controller to its collection because “as the first adaptive controller designed and manufactured at large-scale by a leading technology company, it represents a landmark moment in videogame play, and demonstrates how design can be harnessed to encourage inclusively and access.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large buttons that can be programmed to fit its user’s needs, as well as 19 jacks and two USB ports that are spread out in a single line on the back of the device to make them easier to access. Symbols embossed along the back of the controller’s top help identify ports so gamers don’t ahve to turn it around or lift it up to find the one they need, while groves serve as guidelines to help them plug in devices. Based on gamer feedback, Microsoft moved controls including the D Pad to the side of the device and put the A and B buttons closer together, so gamers can easily move between them with one hand.

The controller slopes down toward the front, enabling gamers to slide their hands onto it without having to lift them (and also makes it easier to control with feet) and has rounded edges to reduce the change of injury if it’s dropped on a foot. The Xbox Adaptive Controller was designed to rest comfortably in laps and also has three threaded inserts so it can be mounted with hardware to wheelchairs, lap boards or desks.

In terms of visual design, the Xbox Adaptive Controller is sleek and unobtrusive, since Microsoft heard from many gamers with limited mobility that they dislike using adaptive devices because they often look like toys. The company’s attention to detail also extends into the controller’s packaging, which is very easy to unbox because gamers told Microsoft that they are often forced to open boxes and other product packages with their teeth.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Google Home and Google Home Mini smart speakers go on sale in India

Google’s two smart speaker products — the Google Home and Google Home Mini — and its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones are now available in India following a launch event in the country.

The devices are priced at Rs 9,999 ($ 154), and Rs 4,499 ($ 69), respectively, and Google confirmed that they are available for purchase online via Flipkart and offline through over 750 retailer stores, including Reliance Digital, Croma and Bajaj Electronics.

The Google smart speakers don’t cater to India’s multitude of local languages at this point, but the U.S. company said that they do understand “distinctly” India voices and “will respond to you with uniquely Indian contexts,” such as answering questions about local sport, cooking or TV shows.

For a limited time, Google is incentivizing early customers who will get six months of Google Play Music alongside offers for local streaming services Saavn and Gaana when they buy the Home or Home Mini.

Google Home and Home Mini were first announced at Google I/O in 2016. The company said recently that it has sold “tens of millions” of speakers, with more than seven million sales between October 2017 and January 18.

Still, it’s been a long time coming to India, which has allowed others to get into the market first. Amazon, which is pouring considerable resources into its India-based business to battle Flipkart, brought its rival Echo smart devices to India last October.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Essential Phone’s new ‘Halo Gray’ color goes on sale exclusively at Amazon

 The Essential Phone is currently in the midst of being rolled out in a range of new colors, including three that will be released excessively on Essential’s own website, with a staged release schedule that began Thursday. On Friday, however, Essential revealed a surprise fourth new color, “Halo Gray,” which will be exclusive to Amazon and which is now available to… Read More

Gadgets – TechCrunch