If you like unsettlingly animal-like robots, then you're probably already familiar with Boston Dynamics' SpotMini. Well, it's now in for some competition. Last week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Chinese manufacturer Unitree Robotics showed off its Laikago quadruped.

Standing 0.6 meters high (2 ft) and tipping the scales at a claimed 24 kg (53 lb), Laikago is reportedly able to scuttle around for up to four hours on one charge of its 50.4-volt/13,000-mAh lithium battery pack. It can also carry as much as 7 kg (15 lb) of cargo, with its four rubber-footed legs taking it to a top speed of 0.8 meters (2.6 ft) per second.

Although it can be remotely controlled, it can additionally operate autonomously if equipped with cameras, GPS, LiDAR or other sensors. Whatever the case, it's able to automatically adjust its yaw, pitch and roll, maintaining stability as the terrain shifts, or even as unhelpful individuals try to knock it over. It definitely looks cool when it's walking around, but … what can it actually be used for?

A Unitree rep at the show told us that most of the models sold so far have gone to universities performing studies on robotics. Down the road, however, other possible applications include security patrolling, inspection of hazardous environments, search and rescue, or deliveries.

And as an interesting side note, Laikago's name pays homage to the Russian cosmonaut-dog Laika, who was the first animal to orbit Earth.

The robot has been on the market for less than a year, is priced at US$45,000, and can be seen in action in the video below. Before you run out and buy one, though, be aware that Unitree plans to introduce a new-and-improved successor, for the same price. Known as Aliengo, it's lighter than Laikago, plus it has a more powerful processor and a built-in computer vision system.

Company website: Unitree Robotics

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