If Spot, Boston Dynamic’s $75,000 robot dog, is too rich for you, how about a stripped-down consumer version? The latest robot dog from Chinese robotics company Unitree is the Unitree Go 2, which starts at an incredible $1,600. After shipping and duties and all, it costs over $2,400, but that’s still a bargain compared to an industrial robot.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if these startup robotics companies are serious and have real products to sell, but we want to stress that this isn’t Unitree’s first robot dog. This is the company’s third-generation consumer product, along with two models of more powerful “industrial” bots that compete with Boston Dynamics.
Unitree Go 2 is just under 16 inches tall, is 27 inches from head to tail and weighs 33 pounds. It has a camera, flashlight and a constantly rotating 360-degree LiDAR sensor on the face. The robot has 12 motors – we’re guessing there are three for each leg – making this a pretty nimble robot, capable of dealing with all sorts of uneven outdoor terrain and, like any good dog, doing loads of tricks. The Go2 packs an 8,000 mAh battery that’s good for about “1-2” hours of run time, along with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth for communicating with the app. The basic model has a top speed of 2.5 meters per second.
A more expensive $2,800 “Pro” model adds a speaker and microphone combo for voice commands, media playback, and intercom functions. There is a “Wireless Vector Positioning Tracking Module” for command tracking, 4G connectivity, a faster CPU and a higher top speed of 3.5 m/s. There’s also a priceless “EDU” model, which can hit 5m/s, and adds a 9A fast charging system and a 15,000mAh battery. It also has a “Foot-end force sensor”, which sounds really important for some of the tricks that happen in the video.
The accompanying video is a non-stop barrage of tricks, but it’s not really clear what versions of the dog they can pull off. Some versions of this dog can jump, flip, stretch, shake hands, sit down, and do all sorts of bipedal hopping. Not only can he go up and down stairs on four legs, he can also go down stairs two legs while doing a handstand.
One thing about the built-in robot voice is that it seems like no one at Unitree is a native English speaker. The robot dog’s text-to-speech engine displays real broken English in its responses, including the line, “I’ll dance to please you.” The website is similar close to to proper English but not quite there, and all the spec sheet footnotes are scrambled, making this all a bit hard to understand, but we’ll do our best. For example, the EDU spec sheet states “Charging Pile Compatibility” – I think this is the only version that can use the charging station. It also supports “Secondary Development”, which is supposed to be some kind of programming interface for the robot dog. Some parts of the spec sheet are still in Chinese, such as “RTT 2.0 图传”, which apparently means it can send video to the app.
Since this is a product released in 2023, it naturally has ChatGPT integration. About 15 seconds into the video, the owner asks the dog to “shake hands” [sic] and the phrase “Automatic code generation via GPT” appears in the video, and some code whizzes by. This seems to indicate that the robot dog didn’t know the very basic dog command of “shake”, so it asked ChatGPT for code on how to do that, and then it just goes to run that code and hope it works. I’m skeptical.
By the way, there are all kinds of toys and accessories that you can buy for your robot dog. There’s an automatic charging dock, but frankly it looks shockingly flimsy, even in the promotional video. First, there are two extremely large metal contacts that the robot crouches on to connect to. The only structure at the base is the thinnest possible plastic milk carton, so the whole thing bends and flops around as the robot approaches it to kneel. On the sturdier side, there’s the aluminum robotic arm mount, which again looks like a cheaper Spot knock-off.
The robot dog is available for pre-order now, but understand that you’re going to have to pay a lot of fees to get one of these in the US. Shipping is $400, and the site says the US should add 25 percent import duty.
Frame image by Unitree