While it has been over 6 years since the unusual gait of Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog first caught people’s attention and over 2 years since its Spot robot dog went on sale, the robot’s capabilities continue to impress. Besides going up and down stairs, its recent appearance in dance routines could be its best trick yet. Designed for both indoor and outdoor activities, Boston Dynamics explains that its Spot Explorer can be adapted for industrial inspection and surprisingly for entertainment applications as well. That could be the version seen in the online videos.
Typically, Spot is remote controlled by a human operator but it is also able to navigate and perform some basic tasks autonomously. Its perception sensors including stereo and depth cameras, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and position/force sensors in it four legs. For detailed inspections, Spot CAM+ adds a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera to the Spot CAM and a thermal camera is another option. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a version of Spot was developed to take contact-free measurements of patients’ vital signs.
Boston Dynamics is a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but robot development efforts continue at MIT. In fact, MIT developed a blind robot that does not rely on vision sensors but touch and algorithms. Without the vision sensors that can slow a robot down, the blind robot could be controlled more safely remotely and operate in an environment where vision would be poor to totally obscured.
Possible tasks for a robotic dog include remote data collection and light manipulation in construction sites. Another ideal and helpful challenge could be monitoring sensors and infrastructure at oil and gas sites. Ultimately, the four-legged friend could carry out dangerous missions such as bomb disposal and hazmat inspections.