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Boston Dynamics’ Spot will boldly work in unsafe environments

This article is part of our series that explores the business of artificial intelligence.

Boston Dynamics has just released the latest update for its famous quadruped robot Spot, giving it better capability to make inspections and collect data without the need for human intervention.

Called Spot Release 3.0, the new update adds “flexible autonomy and repeatable data capture, making Spot the data collection solution you need to make inspection rounds safer and more efficient.”

Unlike many other Boston Dynamics announcements, this one is not accompanied by a flashy video. But it could have a huge impact on Spot’s position in the industrial mobile robot market, where it can reduce the costs of IoT instrumentation and the risks of exposing human operators to environmental hazards.

Improved autonomy

One of the main features of Spot is Autowalk, a system that enables the robot to record and repeat paths. An operator takes the robot through the path using the remote controller interface. The robot memorizes the path and can repeat when commanded to do so. Autowalk can be used for inspection missions in industrial facilities, mines, factories, and construction sites.

The new update improves Autowalk, reducing the need for human guidance and intervention. Robot operators can now edit Autowalk missions and add actions such as capturing images, reading indicators, or run third-party code. Spot also has been given better planning capabilities and can find the best path to perform target actions. Its pathfinding capacity has also been improved to adapt to changes in its inspection paths such as new obstacles. And it can be scheduled to carry out scheduled inspections without human supervision during off-hours.

Boston Dynamics has also improved Spot’s data collection and processing capabilities, including the ability to take images from the same angle during Autowalk cycles and to have them processed by deep learning models running on the device or in the cloud.

Spot has been designed to facilitate the challenges of remote inspection by handling different terrain, slopes, and obstacles. The new update is aimed at making Spot more autonomous and less reliant on human assistance.

Integration with cloud

Another big feature of the new update is improved compatibility with cloud services from Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM. Spot’s sensing capabilities can be an alternative to manual data logging or IoT instrumentation, the installation of smart sensors on old infrastructure.

This feature makes it possible to automatically integrate data collected during Spot’s Autowalk into a broader data-based workflow of companies. The data can be combined with other sources of information and processed with analytics and machine learning tools for tasks such as tracking trends, detecting anomalies, and triggering warnings.

Is Spot worth its price?