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See Spot help: Smart follow system could offer new industrial robotic applications

Boston Dynamics’ robodog has evolved markedly with increasingly nimble capabilities. A new proof of concept announcement opens the door for enhanced human-robot collaboration.


Image: Piaggio Fast Forward

Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot Spot has evolved markedly in the past few years with increasingly nimble capabilities. In December 2020, the company released a video featuring Spot alongside bipedal humanoids as well as an ostrich-like bot performing a choreographed dance sequence to The Contour’s hit song “Do You Love Me?” to much online fanfare.

Beyond the dance floor, these robots have the ability to transform industries; especially in the age of automation and accelerated digital transformation. A new collaboration between hardware and software company Trimble and “smart follow” solutions provider Piaggio Fast Forward could bolster Spot’s utility and other robotic systems in a wide range of industrial settings, company officials say.

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“Most robotics companies look at the world as a world of obstacles,” said Greg Lynn, PFF’s chief executive. “At PFF, we adopted the opposite approach and this philosophy has fueled our research of how humans and robots physically move through space. We design behaviors that understand people and help automate tasks so you don’t have to build complicated hardware.”

Industrial smart following capabilities

On Thursday, Trimble and PFF announced a proof of concept partnership and this involves a PFF prototype “smart following module” built onto Spot using Trimble’s “advanced positioning technology” to control this robotic platform, eliminating the “need to solely control the robot via joystick,” according to the release.

As we reported in November, the military has worked with partners to conduct base security operations with robotic dogs navigating patrol paths at Tyndall Air Force Base with a noncommissioned officer monitoring these movements, according to the military, and virtual reality could enable the overseeing team to “drive” these machines.

Rather than managing movements via a physical joystick or off-site via “telepresence,” the smart following capabilities “allows humans to lead other robots and machines” for a variety of navigational methods ranging from autonomous to remote control operational control, the release said.

“Working with Trimble to boost the process of replacing remote-controlled robots traveling on predetermined paths in mapped environments enable yet another step in the ultimate goal of providing safe and intuitive operations of machines in industrial environments,” Lynn said

“Dynamic following technology is one step closer to kicking the doors open to further implementation—from power tools to farming equipment to even automated vehicles,” Lynn continued.

SEE: Robotics-as-a-Service: Exoskeleton manufacturer receives $20 million in funding (TechRepublic)


Image: Piaggio Fast Forward

With the “simple push of a button” the sensor array is activated and this “pairs to a leader” who can then guide Spot or other bots without “special training,” joysticks or apps, the release said.

Smart following tech originally developed for a PFF robot has been componentized as the PFFtag, a standalone module offering integration “on other machines or robots,” according to the release.

“Robots are a growing presence in our lives, both private and professional, helping to make human activities less burdensome and more efficient,” said Michele Colaninno, founder and chairman of Piaggio Fast Forward.

“When technology and robotics are put at people’s service, I believe they can play a significant role in transforming individual mobility and re-defining workplaces and urban environments to make them more sustainable and people-friendly, and so help create a better future,” Colaninno continued.

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This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic

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