Watch This Boston Dynamics Robot Herd Flock of Sheep in New Zealand

Boston Dynamics' four-legged robot Spot herds sheep in a video from Rocos who just announced a partnership with the robotics company to automate field and crop management on rugged terrain.
Brad Bergan

Boston Dynamics put their four-legged robot Spot to the test in a YouTube video from New-Zealand-based robotics company Rocos — in which the robot herds a flock of sheep — amid a new partnership between the two companies to develop a system to remotely manage Spot and automate fleets, according to a press release on Tuesday.


See Boston Dynamics' Spot herd sheep well

The YouTube video from Rocos hails autonomous robots finding new use "emerging in fields and orchards globally." Instead of thinking of machines as "colossal harvesters," the next generation of machine-assisted industries will involve drones that can walk or fly.

In this case, we see Boston Dynamics' Spot traverse rugged hill-swept terrain to herd a big flock of sheep — a task typically split between farmhands and dogs. Spot makes its way up and down steep hills, over shallow creeks, and then displays how sensor data allows the robot to monitor and manage group movement, and even predict yields of natural goods.

However, Spot does more than herd sheep. It also harvests crops, and can inspect yields or create real-time maps, according to Rocos. These abilities were made possible with advancements made to Spot — like a more nimble range of motion, the ability to adapt to rugged terrain, and even use infrared and LiDAR cameras.

Boston Dynamics Spot Rocos 1
Spot uses on-board sensors to track its way across rugged terrain. Source: Rocos / YouTube

Rocos aims to use these advancements to remotely design and update missions while collecting sensor data. This means users could herd sheep in New Zealand from anywhere in the world.

"The age of autonomous robots is upon us. We're working with organizations like Boston Dynamics to help accelerate the adoption of robotics. By connecting robots to the cloud, we can help them combine a cloud software layer with robotics to achieve physical automation at scale. Our customers are augmenting their human workforces to automate physical processes that are often dull, dirty, or dangerous," said Rocos CEO David Inggs in the press release.

Robotics amid the COVID-19 outbreak

In the age of COVID-19, autonomous robots have seen success in encouraging social distancing, ensuring clean public spaces and hospitals, and even delivering crucial medication without putting additional people at risk of coronavirus infection.

"We're excited to see Rocos enabling key features for Spot and our industry partners. The industry applications we're exploring with Rocos will see this important technology create new efficiencies for businesses around the world," said Michael Perry, VP of business development at Boston Dynamics.

Spot is continually learning new tricks. More recently, Boston Dynamics trained the robot to help in the effort to triage COVID-19 patients. We've also seen the four-legged robot pull a rickshaw, encourage social distancing, and run an obstacle course. As of writing, Massachusetts police are reportedly testing Spot's capabilities as a mobile "remote observation device."

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