Technology

This LiDAR-equipped, 30-pound robot dog can be yours for $1,600


If Boston Dynamic’s $75,000 robot dog, Spot, is too rich for you, how about a stripped-down consumer version? The Chinese robotics company Unitree’s latest robot dog is the Unitree Go 2, which starts at an incredible $1,600. After shipping and duty fees and all that, it’ll cost more like $2,400, but that’s still a bargain compared to an industrial robot.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if these upstart robotics companies are serious and have real products to sell, but we want to stress this is not Unitree’s first robot dog. This is the company’s third-generation consumer product, along with two models of beefier “industrial” bots that compete with Boston Dynamics.

Unitree Go 2 stands at just under 16 inches tall, is 27 inches from head to tail, and weighs 33 pounds. It has a camera, flashlight, and a constantly spinning 360-degree LiDAR sensor on the face. The robot has 12 motors—we’re guessing that means three for each leg—making this a pretty agile robot able to deal with all sorts of uneven outdoor terrain and, like any good dog, do a ton of tricks. The Go2 has an 8000 mAh battery good for about “1–2” hours of runtime, along with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth for communication with the app. The base 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’s a “Wireless Vector Positioning Tracking Module” for following commands, 4G connectivity, a faster CPU, and a higher 3.5 m/s top speed. There’s also a price-unknown “EDU” model, which can hit 5 m/s, and adds a 9A fast-charging system and a 15,000 mAh battery. It also has a “Foot-end force sensor,” which sounds very important for some of the tricks happening in the video.

The accompanying video is a nonstop barrage of tricks, but it’s not really clear which versions of the dog are capable of performing them. Some version of this dog can do jumps, flips, stretching, shaking hands, sitting down, and all sorts of two-footed hopping. It can not only go up and down steps on four legs but can also go down steps on two legs while doing a handstand.

One thing about the built-in robot voice is that it doesn’t seem like anyone at Unitree is a native English speaker. The robot dog’s text-to-speech engine displays some really broken English in its responses, including the line, “I will dance to pleasure you.” The website is similarly close to proper English but not quite there, and all the spec sheet footnotes are scrambled, making this all a little hard to understand, but we’re trying our best. For instance, the EDU spec sheet lists “Charging Pile Compatibility”—I think that means that’s the only version that can use the charging dock. It also supports “Secondary development,” which must be some kind of programming interface for the robot dog. Some parts of the spec sheet are still in Chinese, like “RTT 2.0 图传,” which apparently means it can send video to the app.

Because this is a product released in 2023, of course, it has ChatGPT integration. About 15 seconds into the video, the owner asks the dog to “shake hand” [sic] and the phrase “Automatic code generation via GPT” pops up on the video, and some code whizzes by. This seems to suggest the robot dog didn’t know the very basic dog command of “shake,” so it queried ChatGPT for code on how to do that, and then it’s just going to execute that code and hope it works. I’m skeptical.

By the way, there are all sorts of toys and accessories you can buy for your robot dog. There is an automatic charging dock, but frankly, it looks alarmingly flimsy, even in the promotional video. First, there are two extremely oversized metal contacts that the robot crouches down to connect to. The only structure to the base is the thinnest possible milk carton plastic, so the whole thing flexes and flops around when the robot approaches it to kneel down. On the beefier side of things, there’s the aluminum robot arm attachment, again making look like a cheaper Spot knockoff.

The robot dog is up for preorder now, but understand you’ll get hit with a lot of fees to get one of these in the US. Shipping is $400, and the site says the US needs to add a 25 percent duty charge.

Listing image by Unitree