See Spot Scan. Dog-like Robot with a Scanner for a Head.
Roopinder Tara posted on August 12, 2020 |
But has the public been spooked by sci-fi?
Boston Dynamics Spot with a Trimble laser scanner used to measure as-built Denver airport terminal. (Picture courtesy of Trimble)
Boston Dynamics Spot with a Trimble laser scanner used to measure as-built Denver airport terminal. (Picture courtesy of Trimble)

We have given new meaning to working like a dog, says Aviad Almagor, senior director of emerging technologies at Trimble. He’s referring to their X7 scanner that rides on the back of Boston Dynamics Spot, a bio-inspired, quadruped robot. Guided by an advanced technology team Hensel Phelps, a design and construction firm headquartered north of Denver, Colorado, this 4-legged robot roamed Denver’s International Airport, seeing and recording, its lasers scanning all around it, to make a point cloud of the airport’s terminal building in progress.

Trimble has given no name for this scanner/robot system. We suggest Rover.

“The X7 produces a point cloud with up to 2mm scanning accuracy and high-res panoramic images,” says Almogor in a LinkedIn post. “Its unique auto-calibration, self-leveling, and automatic in-field registration capabilities are a must to have for an autonomous scanning workflow.”

Challenges of getting a stable scan from something that is hopping around notwithstanding, we can see how programming Spot to scan would be quite a bit more fun than the tedious process of setting up a laser scanner a hundred times.

The robotic dog can be programmed to follow a route or it can be guided by a seeing-eye human from a remote location.

The X7’s point cloud files are transmitted to a Trimble T10 tablet via onboard local Wi-Fi . The scans are auto-registered in the field using Trimble’s Field Link program, so the site can be captured in a single visit.

1Point cloud from LiDAR scan of Denver International Airport. (Picture courtesy of Trimble)
Point cloud from LiDAR scan of Denver International Airport. (Picture courtesy of Trimble)

The model assembled from the point cloud constitutes an as-built model that can be compared to the design, the BIM model, to “eliminate surprises and delays during construction.”

Recently, HoloBuilder, creator of 360 degree cameras for construction projects,  announced the launch of SpotWalk, an integrated app that can be used to have Boston Dynamics’ Spot follow a path through a site. This sounds more efficient than have it move about on its own depending on its built-in obstacle avoidance.

The spherical images collected by the 360 camera are organized and managed in HoloBuilder’s web application and analyzed using SiteAI, HoloBuilder’s AI engine. SpotWalk should be available by the time you read this.

Where Have We Seen This?

There’s no mention of the effect on travelers at the airport. While a mechanical dog capable of opening doors and going up steps, in effect an all-terrain platform ripe for all manner of industrial and police/military application, with Boston Dynamics no doubt overcoming enormous engineering challenges along the way -- the public may be more prone to panic. Their last recollection of a dog-like device may have come from one unforgettable Black Mirror episode called Metalhead. The popular Netflix series featured lethal, LiDAR equipped, knife-twirling autonomous Metalheads relentlessly pursuing humans in a post-apocalyptic world. Matte-black while Boston Dynamics Spot is DeWalt yellow, the body and legs are identical. This was no coincidence. Charles Brooker, Black Mirror’s creator was inspired – and creeped out -- by watching videos of Boston Dyamics Spot fall down and right itself.

See the Netlix trailer for Metalhead here:
See the Netlix trailer for Metalhead here:  

You may dismiss the idea of a self-directed vacuum cleaner (iRobot’s Roomba) but it was the first commercial success out of hundreds of attempts of introducing robots to consumers. Similarly, Boston Dyamics’ Spot offers that potential in many industries. It has already been used in entertainment but construction (as featured here) and industrial sites are also targeted. It can be sent into a radioactive site, for example, to take readings and assess damage -- although we could find no mention of shielding that would be necessary to protect its electronics.

Spot can move at 1.6 m/s (a good walking speed for a human) so rest assured that it cannot chase you like a Metalhead. It can operate for 90 minutes on its battery. The un-accessorized base model is self navigating, capable of sending a monochrome video to its handler, sells for $74,500. It can carry a payload of up to 14 KG (31 lb) which includes several accessories. The LiDAR capability, shown in Metalhead, for example, costs $18,450. Edge GPU will add $24,500. If you want the arm with a gripper that can be used for turning doorknobs, you may need to call Boston Dynamics.

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