This guide will help you set up your programming environment to successfully command and control Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot using the Spot Python SDK. The guide defaults to a Linux setup.

Windows users: Please find notes like this to help you where Windows may differ from Linux.

System setup

System requirements

The Boston Dynamics Spot Python SDK works with most operating systems including:

  • Linux Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

  • Windows 10

  • MacOS 10.14 (Mojave)

Windows WSL use is discouraged due to so many examples having graphics.

Python requirements

Spot Python SDK works with Python 3.6 or Python 3.7 only. Python 3.8 is not supported.

Downloads and instructions for installing Python can be found at https://www.python.org/.

We use “python” in this guide but…if you have multiple versions of Python installed then running python might reference an incorrect version (e.g. version 2.7). For example, to run python 3 on Ubuntu 18.04 you would run python3 and on Windows you could use the Python launcher and run py -3. Our documentation uses python assuming that the command launches a compatible version of Python. Virtualenv (described below), is an excellent way to resolve these issues.

Verify your python install is the correct version. Open a command prompt or start your python IDE:

$ python --version
Python 3.6.8

Windows users: There are two common methods for starting the Python interpreter on the command line. First, launch a terminal: Start > Command Prompt. At the command prompt, enter either:

> python.exe


> py.exe

The former will directly call the python.exe that is highest priority in the PATH environment variable. (Note you could also supply a full pathname c:\path\to\install\python.exe to directly call the executable).

The latter uses the Python launcher, which by default starts the most recent version of Python installed. You can also optionally pass arguments to the launcher to control what version of python to launch:

py.exe -2 (launches Python 2)

py.exe -3 (launches Python 3)

py.exe -3.6 (launches Python 3.6)

Pip Installation

Pip is the package installer for Python. The Spot SDK and the third-party packages used by many of its programming examples use pip to install.

Check if pip is installed by requesting its version:

$ python3 -m pip --version
pip 19.2.1 from <PATH_ON_YOUR_COMPUTER>

Windows users:

> py.exe -3 -m pip --version.

If pip is not found, you’ll need to install it. There are a few options:

  • pip comes preinstalled with all Python 3 versions >= 3.4 downloaded from python.org

  • Use the get-pip.py installation script.

  • Use an OS-specific package manager (such as the python3-pip package on Ubuntu)

Permission Denied: If you do not use virtualenv (described below), when you install packages using pip, you may receive Permission Denied errors, if so, add the --user option to your pip command.

Manage multiple Python environments with virtualenv

This section is optional, but recommended.

Users with multiple python versions, anaconda, etc., are responsible for maintaining separation between those installs. Common failures include using the wrong version of python, installing python packages to the wrong python, or using pip associated with the wrong python. One way to improve the stability of your Spot code and your pre-existing python code is to keep them separate using virtual environments. Here are some tips to working with virtualenv.

  • Install virtualenv.

  • Create a virtualenv, being careful to point at the proper python executable.

  • Activate the virtualenv.

  • Install packages as needed, including Spot SDK.

$ python3 -m pip install virtualenv
$ python3 -m virtualenv my_spot_v2_0_env
$ source my_spot_v2_0_env/bin/activate
$ (install packages including Spot SDK, code, edit, execute, etc.)

To exit virtualenv…

$ deactivate

Note: Please ensure the virtualenv was created using the expected version of python. If you see:

$ python -m virtualenv my_spot_v2_0_env
Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/bin/python2

Then the wrong interpreter is being used. You can pass the interpreter as an additional argument, for example:

$ python -m virtualenv -p /usr/bin/python3 my_spot_v2_0_env

Windows users:

> py.exe -3 -m pip install virtualenv
> py.exe -3 -m virtualenv my_spot_v2_0_env
> .\my_spot_v2_0_env\Scripts\activate.bat
> (install packages including Spot SDK, code, edit, execute, etc.)

Install Spot Python packages

With python and pip properly installed and configured, the Python packages are easily installed or upgraded from PyPI with the following command.

$ python3 -m pip install --upgrade bosdyn-client bosdyn-mission bosdyn-choreography-client

Installing the bosdyn-client, bosdyn-choreography-client and bosdyn-mission packages will also install bosdyn-api and bosdyn-core packages with the same version. The command above installs the latest version of the packages. To install a different version of the packages from PyPI, for example 2.1.0, use the following command.

$ python3 -m pip install bosdyn-client==2.1.0 bosdyn-mission==2.1.0 bosdyn-choreography-client==2.1.0

Version incompatibility:

If you see a version incompatibility error during pip install such as:

ERROR: bosdyn-core <VERSION_STRING> has requirement bosdyn-api==<VERSION_STRING>, but you
have bosdyn-api 2.1.0 which is incompatible.

Try uninstalling the bosdyn packages (Note: unlike install, you will need to explicitly list all 4 packages) and then reinstalling:

$ python3 -m pip uninstall bosdyn-client bosdyn-mission bosdyn-api bosdyn-core
$ python3 -m pip install bosdyn-client bosdyn-mission

Verify your Spot packages installation

Make sure that the packages have been installed.

$ python3 -m pip list --format=columns | grep bosdyn
bosdyn-api                    2.1.0
bosdyn-choreography-client    2.1.0
bosdyn-choreography-protos    2.1.0
bosdyn-client                 2.1.0
bosdyn-core                   2.1.0
bosdyn-mission                2.1.0

Windows users:

> python3 -m pip list --format=columns | findstr bosdyn

If you don’t see the 4 bosdyn packages with your target version, something went wrong during installation. Contact support@bostondynamics.com for help.

Next, start the python interpreter:

$ python3
Python 3.6.8 (default, Jan 14 2019, 11:02:34)
[GCC 8.0.1 20180414 (experimental) [trunk revision 259383]] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import bosdyn.client
>>> help(bosdyn.client)
Help on package bosdyn.client in bosdyn:


    The client library package.
    Sets up some convenience imports for commonly used classes.


If the packages are not installed correctly, you may see an error like this one:

>>> import bosdyn.client
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
ModuleNotFoundError: No module named 'bosdyn.client'

If that’s the case, run python -m pip list again to make sure that the Boston Dynamics Python packages are installed.

If you can’t import bosdyn.client without an error, you may have multiple instances of Python on your computer and have installed bosdyn to one while running the other. Check the pathnames of your python executables. Are they where you’d expect them to be? If not, this is a potential sign that you may have multiple python installs. Consider using virtual environments (see above). If all else fails, contact support@bostondynamics.com for help.

Verify you can command and query Spot

To verify your packages work correctly with Spot, you need:

  • A Spot robot on the same version as your packages,

  • A user account on the robot

Get a Spot robot

Contact sales@bostondynamics.com to get a Spot robot.

Get a user account on the robot

If you just unboxed your Spot robot, you will find a sticker inside the battery cavity with wifi, admin, and username “user” credentials. Please note however that Boston Dynamics recommends that you first have your designated robot administrator log onto the robot with admin credentials and change passwords to increase security.

NOTE: The following examples will assume username “user” and password “password.”

Ping Spot

  1. Power on Spot. Wait for the fans to turn off (and maybe 10-20 seconds after that)

  2. Connect to Spot via wifi.

  3. Ping spot at

$ ping

Request a Spot robot’s ID

Issue the following command to get your Spot robot’s ID:

$ python3 -m bosdyn.client id
beta-BD-90490007     02-19904-9903   beta29     spot (V3)
Software: 2.1.0 (b11205d698e 2020-03-11 11:53:12)
Installed: 2020-03-11 15:06:57

If this worked for you, SUCCESS! You are now successfully communicating with Spot via Python! Note that the output returned shows your Spot robot’s unique serial number, its nickname and robot type (Boston Dynamics has multiple robots), the software version, and install date.

If you see the following:

$ python3 -m bosdyn.client id
Could not contact robot with hostname ""

The robot is not powered on or is unreachable. Go back and try to get your ping to work. You can also try the -v or --verbose to get more information to debug the issue.

Get a copy of the full SDK distribution from github

While simply installing the Boston Dynamics Python packages is sufficient to deploy solutions, developers need to download the full Spot SDK distribution to actually develop solutions. The distribution con contains programming examples, protobuf definitions and API documentation.

The Spot Python SDK distribution is available at https://github.com/boston-dynamics/spot-sdk.

Users can either:

  • git clone https://github.com/boston-dynamics/spot-sdk.git (recommended)

  • Download a zipfile distribution:

    • Select green box “Clone or download” from the webpage.

    • Select “Download ZIP”.

    • Unzip the file to your home directory.

    • Rename the top-level directory spot-sdk-master to spot-sdk. (only for consistency with this document, nor required)

Run Hello Spot - let’s see the robot move!

OK, now that we have properly installed the python packages, successfully used those packages to communicate with Spot, and have downloaded the distribution, let’s see the robot do something!

Change your working directory to the hello_spot example in the distribution. Do a pip install with requirements.txt as an argument so that any dependent packages are installed. Then run hello_spot:

HELPFUL HINT: When working with any Spot SDK programming example, always use the associated requirements.txt to install dependent third party packages.

$ cd ~/spot-sdk/python/examples/hello_spot # or wherever you installed Spot SDK
$ python3 -m pip install -r requirements.txt # will install dependent packages
$ python3 hello_spot.py --username user --password password

Hello_spot will fail because there is not an E-Stop endpoint.

2020-03-30 15:26:36,283 - ERROR - Robot is E-Stopped. Please use an external E-Stop client, such as
the E-Stop SDK example, to configure E-Stop.

If you see the following error:

$ python3 hello_spot.py --username usehername --password pazwierd
2020-04-03 15:10:28,189 - ERROR - Hello, Spot! threw an exception: bosdyn.api.GetAuthTokenResponse:
Provided username/password is invalid.

Your username or password is incorrect. Check your spelling and verify your credentials with your robot administrator.

Run an independent E-Stop

Change your working directory to the E-Stop example and run the nogui version:

$ cd ~/spot-sdk/python/examples/estop # or wherever you installed Spot SDK
$ python3 -m pip install -r requirements.txt # will install dependent packages
$ python3 estop_nogui.py --username user --password password

Now try to run the estop_gui version:

$ python3 estop_gui.py --username user --password password

You should now have a big red STOP button displayed on your screen. You’re now ready to go! (or stop in an emergency!!)

Run Hello Spot (take 2)

OK, now we have an E-Stop. Leave it running, and open a second python window, and again run hello_spot:

$ cd ~/spot-sdk/python/examples/hello_spot # or wherever you installed Spot SDK
$ python3 hello_spot.py --username user --password password

Your Spot robot should have powered up its motors, stood up, made a few poses, taken a picture, and sat down. If it didn’t, be sure to check that the Motor power enable button on the back of Spot was properly turned on.

Try it again, and this time, push the E-Stop button and watch the robot do a “glide-stop.” Remember, E-Stop is your friend.

Congratulations, you are now a full-fledged Spot Programming Example Operator!

But, if you also want to be a full-fledged Spot Programmer, you need to understand more about how Spot works. Here are the next steps we recommend:

Next Steps

  1. Read our next section, Spot Programming Highly recommended!

  2. Take time to explore the programming examples which all launch in essentially the same manner as hello_spot.

    • Try making simple modifications to the code. NOTE: If you installed the SDK using a zipfile, be careful to understand what changes you’ve made, as users sometimes inject errors into the SDK code unintentionally. Git users can simply use git diff to understand all changes they have made.

    • Try out the wasd programming example. This is a more detailed example built on top of the Python API which lets you interactively control Spot using the keyboard on your development machine. It covers issuing commands in far more detail than this quick start. And it is fun!

  3. Read through the protocol buffer definitions and the Spot Python SDK source code documentation to understand even more.

If you have any questions, please email support@bostondynamics.com.