Monday, February 7, 2022

The viral robot dog has arrived in Europe, costs 63,700 euros

robot dog

Although its image has gone viral while walking or dancing, the robot dog is not intended for domestic use: "It is an industrial product, only industrial," say its distributors in Spain, pointing to its use for security or remote control.

In recent months, it has appeared in viral videos all over the world. The most recent occurred a few weeks ago in León, when a woman was seen walking a yellow robot in the shape of a dog, complete with a leash. The mechanized dog is the Boston Dynamics Spot robot, which has recently arrived in Spain via the Spanish company Plain Concepts. The woman works for this Spanish firm, which has one of its headquarters in that city and has recently presented it in Madrid.

The 'dog,' which weighs about 30 kilograms and is equipped with ten cameras that allow it to locate itself in the environment, is an industrial platform that can move across all types of floors, avoid obstacles, climb stairs, and maintain its balance even when pushed. However, the main benefit for businesses, according to Plain Concepts, is the variety of applications that can be added to that platform. "Our work begins there; it's all in what we put on top of it," CEO Pablo Pelaez explains. The 'dog' costs 63,700 euros, but it could cost up to 300,000 euros depending on the applications that are added to it. For example, in February, Boston Dynamics unveiled an arm that allows Spot to grab and move objects for 30,000 euros more than the platform's price.

Plain Concepts, which began as a "development boutique in Microsoft technology" and is now experiencing international expansion, with offices in Seattle, London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, has reached an agreement with Boston Dynamics for the development in Spain of the software of this device, which supports a maximum weight of 14 kilos, but its goal is to also sell its innovations in Europe and to companies that have already acquired the Spot robot in other countries.

"It is an American technology that they have been developing for ten years," says Peláez, who hopes to "bring this technology closer to Spanish companies" in order to "increase their competitiveness." He claims that they do this without setting a sales target or focusing on software development. "It is still in its early stages. Only 500 units were sold worldwide last year "He elaborates. Only large corporations have it, including Airbus, Boeing, Toshiba, and SpaceX, which used it to explore the area where its Starship prototype exploded last February.

"We must find a use for it."

For the time being, many of these companies have acquired the Spot because of its media impact and pioneer status, "but then you have to find a use for it," Peláez admits. "The issue with purchasing a drone or other types of robots is determining how to use them within your industry.

You have hardware that is similar to a car that you drive with a remote control, but what you want to do is put thermographic cameras, sensors, audio sensors, applications to map environments, and so on.... The base is capable of walking on its own. That is what they gain, and from there, we will adapt that hardware to our customers' business situations "Javier Canton, Plain Concepts' head of research, explains.

Although Boston Dynamics has promoted and capitalized on the virality of images such as the robot dog dancing, jumping, or acting in the manner of flesh and blood dogs, this device is not intended for domestic use. In fact, it is discouraged because it lacks its own home safety measures. "It's just an industrial product," Plain Concepts insists.

In fact, the company prioritizes Spot's utility in three areas: safety in various environments, inspections of large infrastructures, and remote management of the robot for various industrial scenarios."

These types of robots are useful for performing repetitive tasks that can be tedious, as well as tasks that can be dangerous for humans, such as in a factory where there is a risk of gas leaks or in a power plant where high-voltage chambers must be checked.

These routine inspections of specific installations can be hazardous. If there is an operator controlling the robot and ensuring that it is safe to access without jeopardizing his own safety, all the better "Cantón brings this up.

Spot, for example, can incorporate gas sensors in the chemical industry, sound sensors with artificial intelligence to detect changes in the noise emitted by machines on an assembly line and predict breakdowns, or cameras to perform three-dimensional controls of construction sites, similar to BIM models - Building Information Modeling - used to monitor progress in the construction of buildings or infrastructure and make corrections before structural problems appear.

During the pandemic, it was used in the United States to take the temperature of people who could be infected without having to approach them. Plain Concepts will now work on developments in Mixed Reality and Artificial Intelligence, as well as its own 3D Holo-Robot engine, which will work with HoloLens glasses to allow for gestural telecontrol of the robot.


Article Author Gerluxe 

Image:  Josh Reynolds/Associated Press


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