China’s smartphone and AIoT giant Xiaomi introduced its second-generation robot dog CyberDog2 at a new product launch yesterday evening in Beijing, representing a new milestone in the company’s endeavor to tap into robotics and embodied AI.
Nonetheless, contrary to expectations, Lei Jun, founder, chairman and CEO of the internet titan, only presented the audience with a video clip of the quadruped, a successor to its CyberDog, at the China National Convention Center in Beijing.
Unlike in 2021 when CyberDog made its debut, this time around the four-legged robot, which carries a price tag of 12,999 yuan (US$1,787.36), did not prance onstage to wow the audience.
According to Xiaomi, CyberDog2 comes with 12 CyberGear new-generation micro-sized motors developed in-house by Xiaomi.
They generate a stronger torque necessary to dynamic responses and locomotion, as well as support a wider range of movement, especially fine movement.
Notably, CyberGear will also be made available at 499 yuan via Xiaomi’s self-operated e-commerce channels.
From clumsiness to agility
Xiaomi said the quadruped can do successive forward or reverse somersaults, keep its balance on a skateboard and even bow with its paws held together.
These stunts contrast sharply with some quadrupeds in the market that are an object of ridicule for being maladroit.
The secret to upgraded motion control abilities lies partly in the hardware components the legged canine is equipped with.
It has 19 sensors across its body, spanning functions such as image recognition, distance sensing, sound recognition and tactile perception.
These components allow the quadruped to better sense and adapt to the environment.
Lei also revealed that the CyberDog2 is connectible to Xiaomi’s smart AI speaker, meaning that the legged device can be made to follow voice commands.
In terms of appearance, Xiaomi engineers have taken a step further in their embrace of a bionic design.
CyberDog2 bears a resemblance to a Doberman in its head, limbs and waist, a structure they say is an essential representation of real biological features in nature.
Compared to its predecessor, the new contraption is smaller by 16% and weighs nearly 40% less thanks to a series of hardware and software iterations.
Open-source for developers
These upgrades are partly a result of AI-driven deep learning based on imitations of 30,000 canines, Lei stated.
Xiaomi said these specs combine to make the gadget akin to a real small-sized dog.
What’s more, nine parts of a CyberDog2’s husk are replaceable with 3D-printed parts. This enables the users to customize the dog’s appearance to their own liking.
Lei said Xiaomi will open-source CyberDog2 to global Xiaomi fans and geeks, allowing them to develop more features and functions based on its platform.
Lei said the quadruped is targeted at developers with programming experience rather than ordinary consumers.
Jeers and suggestion
Some observers are less optimistic. Despite the hype of Xiaomi, a few commentators said the gadget is still at least “a decade” behind Boston Dynamics’s iconic robot dog Spot.
“Spot is like a 3-year-old adult dog, Xiaomi’s is more like a 15-year-old. Xiaomi leads Boston Dynamics by 12 years!” read a sarcastic top-voted post on IT Home, an IT news portal.
Application scenarios are also elusive or at least vague for the contraption, other commentators pointed out.
A possible use case for CyberDog2 is to provide a platform for Xiaomi engineers to further optimize its AI algorithms and try hardware like lidar and 3D camera, read another post on IT Home.
They are key to autonomous driving, a segment Xiaomi has bet big on.
Xiaomi previously announced its foray into carmaking but has yet to release tangible results like a prototype.