The Spot robot, formerly known as SpotMini, is a four-legged robot created by Boston Dynamics, an American robotics company. Founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston Dynamics is currently owned by the Hyundai Motor Group). Recently, Boston Dynamics has unveiled Spot Release 3.0 for its quadruped robot, reflecting more than a year of software advancements over Release 2.0.
While the military financed Boston Dynamics’ initial research, the company has worked hard to disassociate itself from that legacy as it begins to sell its advanced robot creations. Spot has already been seen performing significantly more innocuous duties in recent video releases from the company, such as dancing, gardening, and skipping.
The latest version focuses on allowing Spot to complete tasks without the need for human participation, pushing the limits of automation. The highlights of Release 3.0 include autonomous dynamic replanning, cloud integration, some creative camera tricks, and a new ability to handle push-bar doors.
The Spot robot is now the data collecting solution companies may need to make inspection rounds safer and more efficient, thanks to the latest update’s customizable autonomy and repeatable data capture. Spot’s automated inspections have been simplified to allow for more efficient data collection and processing. It can be programmed to perform a variety of jobs, including gathering photographs, thermal images, point clouds, and other essential data which will be later processed into valuable signals at the edge using computer vision models, and developing bespoke uploads to communicate those signals to existing systems for analysis and review.
Spot Release 3.0 additionally improves Spot’s Autowalk feature by allowing for better planning. Autowalk, a mechanism that will enable the robot to record and repeat paths, is one of Spot’s inherent functions. Here, using the remote controller interface, an operator guides the robot along the path. The robot remembers the path and can repeat it when instructed. In industrial facilities, mines, factories, and building sites, Autowalk can be employed for inspection missions.
The recent update enhances Autowalk, eliminating the need for human intervention and supervision. Autowalk missions can now be edited by robot operators, who can add tasks like collecting photographs, reading indicators, or running third-party code. Spot’s planning abilities have also been improved, and he can now find the optimum path to complete specific actions. Its ability to respond to changes in its inspection paths, such as additional obstructions, has also been improved. It can also be programmed to do scheduled checks without human intervention during off-peak hours.
Boston Dynamics have also improved Spot’s data collection and processing capabilities. This includes the ability to take images from the same angle during Autowalk cycles and have them processed in the cloud using AI analysis (e.g., Tensorflow) and reviewed for potential critical signals, which can then be sent to existing inspection systems. Here, the images can be captured from the same angle every time with scene-based camera alignment for the Spot CAM+ pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera.
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Next, Spot has another interesting feature in version 3.0 that allows it to avoid colliding with its human coworkers: it can now make a freely customizable warning sound. It can also dynamically re-plan its routes if an unforeseen impediment appears in the middle of a tour.
Spots may even build tasks and attach them to specific traits, like going to a machine every day and inspecting it with a thermal image sensor. Spot can determine whether a particular object has gone amiss and send this information using scene recognition and image analysis.
Improved compatibility with Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM cloud services is another prominent feature of the latest update. The sensing capabilities of Spot can be used as a substitute for manual data logging, IoT instrumentation, and the installation of smart sensors on existing infrastructure. This functionality allows data collected during Spot’s Autowalk to be automatically integrated into a larger data-based workflow of enterprises.
While Spot is a well-known robot, new competitors have emerged in recent years, attempting to steal Spot’s thunder. After an unfortunate paintball incident at a US art installation – though Boston Dynamics condemned the event – the latest Spot 3.0 update may enable it to achieve new feats and create trust in the canine robot.