Boston Dynamics is continuing to target the construction industry, marketing Spot the robot dog as a vehicle for carrying image capturing or laser scanning equipment where humans may not be able to.
Teaming with Faro, a 3D measuring and imaging tech company, Boston Dynamics displayed Spot’s capabilities in a Feb. 18 demonstration at HITT’s Co|Lab in Falls Church, Virginia. Spot was made to walk up stairs and around rough terrain while performing image capturing tasks autonomously for HITT’s team and their end users, according to Kipp Ivey, Faro’s key account manager on the project.
At the Co|Lab, a research center designed to test emerging construction technology and materials, HITT has explored the use of scanners and sensors on Spot and how to utilize it on jobsites, but has yet to announce further implementation details.
The Spot demonstration is the first in a master series of presentations at Co|Lab, and HITT plans to have one presentation a quarter from subject matter experts bringing new technology or innovations to demonstrate to end users, Megan Lantz, vice president of corporate business development for HITT, told Construction Dive.
See Spot run
Currently, Spot is only available through an early adopter program, with lease prices that Boston Dynamics says are less than the price of a car, depending on lease period and amount of units leased.
The robot has already begun taking walks on construction jobsites. Its ability to autonomously walk, open doors and handle uneven terrain makes it ideal for work on construction sites.
Hensel Phelps sicced Spot on a site for tests, trying out HoloBuilder Inc.’s SpotWalk app, which allows the dog to perform reality capture of jobsites regularly, at least more often than a human usually can. The app allows users to determine a path for Spot to walk and capture 360 degree video, so that the information captured is the most up-to-date, accurate information available.
Hensel Phelps piloted the HoloBuilder tests during a $1.2 billion San Francisco International Airport terminal project. Just a little training allowed the dog to begin its capturing routine.
The robot can carry up to 25 pounds of payload, Ivey said, and during the presentations at Co|Lab, the machine carried up to three pieces of scanning or data capturing tech at the same time, using both pre-planned autonomous routes and remote control.
Data capture and sensors continue to be the focus for using Spot on construction sites, said Michael Perry, vice president of business development for Boston Dynamics.
“We've seen requests for allowing owners to teleoperate Spot over remote jobsites, enable inspectors to regularly check for cold spots in window casings using thermal cameras, and many others,” he said.
Perry said that Boston Dynamics is continuing to improve Spot’s mobility, which the company argues is already ahead of two-wheeled robots and drones in terms of ease to learn, manage and begin piloting for, including on uneven terrain. The use of the robot is still considered to be in beta testing.
Image capture using robotics is an attractive trend.
For example, Barcelona-based Scaled Robotics recently secured $2 million euros (U.S. $2.2 million) from investors, Scaled co-founder and CEO Stuart Maggs told Construction Dive.
The firm uses laser data and 2D imaging to build a 3D model of a construction site, then automatically uploads the data to the cloud where it is compared to the BIM file. It uses robots and other scanners to capture the data, but Maggs said the application is best used for software providing insight on the construction process.
Basically, Scaled sees Boston Dynamics not as a competitor, but as another method of delivering the data the company offers, Maggs said.
“I think the combination of solutions like [Boston Dynamic’s] Spot mini and our software offers a compelling and exciting vision for the future of construction,” Maggs said.
Ivey said the key is that Spot’s size and function as a vehicle to carry image-capturing tech means the benefits are still being discovered.
“You won’t always know what you can collect or where you need to go until Spot is there,” he said.