Boston Dynamics expands Spot product line: auto-recharging, remote operation and more

Unless you’ve you’ve been offline for the past few years, chances are you’ve seen the amazing robots created by Boston Dynamics. Spot is an all-electric robot that can carry...

Unless you’ve you’ve been offline for the past few years, chances are you’ve seen the amazing robots created by Boston Dynamics. Spot is an all-electric robot that can carry up to 14kg, and can be yours for just US$75,000.

Today, Boston Dynamics launched an expanded product line for their robot dog, Spot. This incredibly capable robot is strong, capable and popular, with more than 400 now sold to customers. While the raw number may not sound like much, at the premium price, that equates to more than $30 million of revenue for the company.

CEO Robert Playter detailed some uses cases for these remotely controlled robots, including automating data capture, eyes on worksites that have complex terrain. He went on to list how customers have implemented Spot to date, including construction sites, deep underground mines and even inside nuclear power plants, keeping workers safe from radiation.

Spot has the capability to integrate workloads. These are essentially attachments to enhance the capabilities of the robot and Boston Dynamics now has more than 40 partners to work on these solutions.

These partnerships include FLIR for thermal imaging, Trimble for Lidar-based mapping of complex environments.

Based on customer feedback, the company is no going to enable Spot to autonomous patrol work sites, like a guard dog (with a connected camera).

Today Boston revealed 3 new products – Spot Enterprise, Scout and Spot Arm.

Woodside is Australia’s largest producer of natural gas and with a large, complex sites, they need to be monitored. Most companies use humans to solve the problem, but Woodside are using Spot to do the task accurately, repeatedly.

Woodside can now use Spot Enterprise, equipped with a camera and microphone, to autonomously perform remote inspection tasks, saving money on travel and wages, while reliably repeating these checks at plants, often from hundreds of km away.

Obviously most robots would fail when it comes to mult-elevation environments, but spot is able to handle steps like a champ. Boston Dynamics really designed Spot to be able to go anywhere a human could, so it’s actually perfect to take care of tasks in these kind of environments, while eliminating the potential safety hazards for staff.

You can pair multiple Spots together to capture large environments and when spot needs to recharge, he can return to his dock, much like your robot vacuum cleaner (just way more expensive). It takes just 2 hours to recharge to full and then be ready for the next mission. This means a single robot could perform multiple tasks throughout the day and night.

When Spot Enterprise is self-charging, it can also connect to an Ethernet port when it docks, allowing the download of data captured during it’s work.

Previously, you had to use a tablet and stand within range to control Spot. Now Boston Dynamics is offering the remote software called Scout, offering a virtual control room to owners.

Robot controls allow you to control the speed of Spot (Slow, Med, Fast), along with changing the mode or operation between Sit and Walk. There’s also the ability to load and save missions and log comments on the job, but possibly the best option is to see what Spot is seeing.

When looking at the camera feed, you can select part of the video and have Spot get closer for a better inspection. This is about as close as you’ll get to being able to say ‘enhance’ and actually getting better quality on something (thanks NCIS). This works by using a 30x optical zoom and can even toggle thermal imagery to detect irregular hot or cold spots in the plant.

Controlling spot can be as easy as tapping on a location in your plant (previously mapped), and Spot will go to that location. You can also navigate left right, forward back, using a joystick, creating a very expensive video game.

If you want to know more, watch the full release video below.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021
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