With the acquisition of startup Kinema Systems, Boston Dynamics buys a better brain for robots.
Famous for creating tumbling robots and opening doors, Boston Dynamics has now decided to buy a technology that can give a better brain for its creations.
And the robots were pretty smart by themselves already!
The company announced on Tuesday (2) that it is acquiring startup Kinema Systems, which manufactures computer vision and machine learning systems for robots.
With technology, Boston Dynamics robots can move boxes in warehouses and factories more accurately – boxes of different sizes and stacked without organization can be problematic for robots.
Even ambient lighting interferes with the task’s understanding.
The Kinema startup solves the problem using a combination of conventional cameras, 2D and 3D computer vision algorithms and machine learning.
Their systems allow a robot to discover for itself where one box ends, and another begins.
Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert says Kinema’s technology and expertise can be crucial to making its machines more practical.
Today, the company’s robots, most with two or four legs, are brilliant at rebalancing themselves.
They reposition their legs quickly in response to a slip or a nudge, which allows them to walk on terrain still treacherous, like ice, without falling.
But they are costly, have little ability to navigate and rely primarily on human operators for guidance.
“All our robots need a better view,” Raibert told MIT Technology Review. “We’re hiring people, but buying this company is another way to attract people.”
Raibert says his team was impressed with how the Kinema system worked under different conditions.
And Kinema’s technology has potential applications outside the warehouse, such as allowing a robot to see what it needs to move through other environments.
The company will continue to sell the platform and technology currently offered by Kinema, he says, by trying to integrate it into systems such as Boston Dynamics’ Handle.
In 2013, Boston Dynamics was one of several robotics companies acquired by Google in a sudden surge of spending before being sold to Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in 2017.
The company’s robots played a prominent role in a robotics competition sponsored by DARPA and held from 2012 to 2015.