Who let the dogs out? Boston Dynamics recently developed a four-legged robot that can be used for a variety of different functions from industrial inspection to entertainment. The design of the robots allows them to inspect dangerous, inaccessible, and remote environments. They’re also able to be used for data collection and carrying payloads on unknown terrain. They’re currently only available to be purchased by US customers.
Ford has purchased two of these four-legged friends and taken their dog-like design very literally, renaming them Fluffy and Spot. They’ve been brought to the Michigan Van Dyke Transmission Plant this month in order to collect data and complete scans of the plant from hard to reach places. They’ll complete their task by using the laser scanners attached to their backs to scan the plant while being remotely controlled by their handler, Paula Weibelhaus. The handler uses a handheld device with a camera view in order to control Spot or Fluffy and avoid collisions.
The current design allows the robot to move at roughly three miles per hour as well as through uneven terrain and upstairs. Ford has another robot at the facility, Scouter, which moves around to capture 3D scans. They’ve been using Scouter to transport Fluffy to and from areas and then switching over to Fluffy when they need to reach narrower areas. They’ve also taken the dog comparison to a comical degree by providing Fluffy and Spot with bones, chew toys, and water dishes. The data they collect will allow Ford engineers to update the plant design.