Boston Dynamics Just Gave Spot the Robot Dog Several Major Upgrades

Spot is finally taking up the most dangerous and remote jobs, potentially saving lives.
Brad Bergan

Mobile robotics firm Boston Dynamics announced an expansion of its robot dog line, Spot, in a  Tuesday press release.

Debuted products include a self-charging "Enterprise Spot," a Scout model with web-based remote operations software, and a nifty-looking Spot Arm. These latest additions will add to Spot's capacities to perform autonomous remote inspections — in addition to data collection, and allowing the robot to carry out manual tasks, according to a live YouTube demo.

Boston Dynamics gave Spot several major upgrades

As of writing, there are more than 400 active Spot robots in the world — engaged in hazardous lines of work across a wide spectrum of dangerous environments, including offshore oil fields, mines, construction sites, and nuclear plants, according to the release.

Up to now, customers of Boston Dynamics have used Spot's advanced autonomy, mobility, control, and potential for customized tasks to enhance operations, gather crucial work data, and improve worker safety.

Spot's new upgrades are designed to allow customers to build a fully-operational, continuous, autonomous data collection on remote or hazardous worksites of varying scope — from wherever access to a remote network is available.

Spot Enterprise self-charges, extends distance, features rapid data offload

Central to enhancing the value of Spot is autonomy. To build support for long-distance and remote deployments, Boston Dynamics introduced Spot Enterprise — a new version equipped with self-charging capacities combined with a dock — which enables the robot to carry out long-term inspection tasks, collecting data on missions with little-to-no human help.

Spot Enterprise also features upgraded hardware to enhance safety, communications, and robot behavior in remote situations. These additions substantially expand the range of autonomous missions — with far-reaching WiFi support, additional flexibility to Spot's payload ports, and the capacity to rapidly offload large data sets gathered during the mission.

Scout's web-based software for long-distance and hazardous tasks

However, crucial to Spot's value as it scales up implementation is robust remote operation. This is why Boston Dynamics added another, web-based software capability called Scout — which allows operators to control a fleet of Spot robots from a virtual control room, according to the release.

This enables operators to use Scout to send Spot anywhere a worker could go — to inspect equipment or venture to hazardous regions of the work-site from long-distance. The new Scout software aims to provide a simple user interface that can run pre-programmed autonomous missions — or via manual control — to carry out multiple tasks like walking, or positioning the robot to snap images and thermal data of hard-to-reach gauges or pipes with Spot's CAM+IR thermal imaging payload.

Spot Arm can perform subtle interactions in constrained environs

In combining Spot Enterprise with a Spot CAM+IR thermal imaging payload and Scout software, Boston Dynamics is adding out-of-the-box upgrades for work environments requiring specific and specialized assets. Operators may deploy the new upgrades on-site to optimize worker safety, worker uptime, and maintain crucial assets.

Boston Dynamics is also deploying the Spot Arm — which helps users act on key data insights and shoulder the weight of physical labor in environments designed for human access. The arm can perform both semi-autonomous actions and remote telemanipulation.

Grasping, lifting, placing, carrying, and dragging a wide spectrum of objects either manually or semi-autonomously, Spot's new Arm can perform subtle interactions with objects in constrained environments — like opening and closing valves, turning knobs and handles, and pulling levers — coordinating its bodily position and posture to optimize efficiency.

Naturally, typical push-and-pull doors are a piece of cake for Spot.

Boston Dynamics robots transforming hazardous work

"Since first launching Spot, we have worked closely with our customers to identify how the robot could best support their mission critical applications," said CEO of Boston Dynamics Robert Playter in the press release.

"Our customers want reliable data collection in remote, hazardous, and dynamic worksites," added Playter. "We developed the new Spot products with these needs in mind, and with the goal of making it easy to regularly and remotely perform critical inspections, improving safety and operations."

Boston Dynamics has rapidly become a global leader in work-intensive robotic assistance. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the robot dog helped measure patients' vitals. But while the new normal for remote and even hazardous work environments may begin to resemble yellow robot nurseries — we should remember that such sights are a taste of the future of robot-assisted industries.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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