Boston Dynamics has found a way to use robotic dogs without terrifying people.
The maker of “Spot” — a 71.7-pound, 33.1-inch-tall, four-legged robot — has teamed up with DroneDeploy, a drone software provider, and Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms, to use the robots to automate construction documentation.
“It definitely gets a lot of stares, I don’t think out of fear but more out of shock and awe,” said Jake Lovelace, a Brasfield & Gorrie innovation specialist.
Outfitted with a 360-degree camera, Spot allows workers to autonomously capture data from building interiors and take close-up photos to document the progress a project has made for the bid process or inspection.
It’s built so that it can navigate rough terrain and also has sensors for noise, carbon dioxide and particulate levels, making it unnecessary for humans to risk going into potentially unsafe places, Lovelace said.
Earlier this year, the construction company began collaborating with Boston Dynamics and DroneDeploy to develop an industry-first workflow for automating 360-degree, video-based construction documentation.
Through its new feature, 360 Walkthrough, DroneDeploy now works with both drones and on-the-ground, 360-degree cameras like the one Spot is equipped with to provide a digital reconstruction of any job site.
At $74,500, Spot doesn’t come cheaply, Lovelace said, but it can save companies money in the long-run on work an assistant project manager normally would have to spend hours to do.
He doesn’t anticipate the robot eliminating jobs, though; instead, it’s more likely to change them, he says, by freeing up employees to do work that requires critical thinking.
He expects Brasfield & Gorrie to have several Spots within the next few years.
“We’re proving that Spot is more than a flashy new product,” Lovelace said. “It’s becoming increasingly important to have robotics. Companies not keeping on top of technology are going to lag behind.”
The construction industry isn’t the only one that’s used Spot. The robot also has been used by manufacturing companies, nuclear power plants and even Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based, contemporary circus producer, said Brian Ringley, a construction technology manager at Boston Dynamics.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital also used Spot to help do patient intake by equipping the robot with a tablet, Ringley said, so that doctors and nurses could interview prospective patients remotely, without risk of exposure to the virus.