Google’s Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics company widely known for their 240-pound robot BigDog, has developed their lightest robot yet. SpotMini weighs only 65 pounds and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge. The agile robot has been recorded in a home going up the stairs, ducking under a table, and even loading a dishwasher! SpotMini navigates using a variety of sensors.
In 2015, ten years after its release, BigDog was discontinued. The robot was modeled after a pack mule and intended for use in combat, but it was too loud for this application. SpotMini has an all-electric design replacing the liquid-powered pistons of BigDog, which makes SpotMini one of the quietest robots Boston Dynamics has ever created. However, SpotMini may be applied domestically more than in combat as it resembles a dog and proves to be helpful with household chores.
Toyota is introducing the Prius with a solar roof in the fall of 2016. However, this feature will only be available in Europe and Japan. The large solar panel on the roof of the car does not comply with United States safety regulations because it is installed on reinforced glass sheeting that shatters in the event of a rollover. Toyota currently does not have the ability to laminate the photovoltaic cells in a resin that will not shatter, but the company is actively researching a solution.
While the car is parked, the solar roof will send the electricity generated to the battery pack. While the car is running, the electricity will power lights, windows, and air conditioning. The solar roof improves the Prius’s efficiency by up to ten percent. The company has been working on this development since 2009 and hopes to release the solar roof to other Toyota hybrids soon.