Whether you hate it or love it - robots are taking over the world. Not necessarily the enslave humanity kind of takeover (that’s a bit further down the road, unless you think your iRobot can get the better of you), but robots have started to pop up everywhere in the last few years.
One of the more famous robots in the world is Spot, the robotic dog developed by Boston Dynamics. We’ve already seen the robo-dog dance, open doors, and go up for auction, and more recently the mechanical pup found its way to the Holy Land. We were given a sneak peak into its Israeli stay and future potential.
How it happened
We met up with Spot at Israeli startup Percepto’s testing facilities, where the company experiments with autonomous drone technologies for the industrial sector. Percepto’s idea is that instead of humans supervising and monitoring hazardous and dangerous sites - think mines, heavy industry, and such - Percepto offers a comprehensive autonomous solution, including docking and charging stations, drones, and software for fleet management and data analysis, called AIM (Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring). The AIM system performs high-speed routine maintenance with machine-level accuracy, able to access points which are problematic for human access.
Even though Perecepto originated in the aerial drone industry, over the last few years, the company has started to develop hybrid autonomous robotic systems (combined aerial and ground robots). In a chat with Geektime, Raviv Raz, co-founder and Chief Engineering Officer, explains that Percepto started collaborating with Boston Dynamics following requests coming from customers: “Think of a drone hovering over a solar panel farm. The drone identifies a problem with one of the panels. It’s only natural to send over the dog for a closer look, a better picture of all the different components… We want to provide enterprises with the flexibility to monitor operations with whatever visual tool they require.”
Essentially, Percepto transferred the processing unit, thermic cameras from the drone’s brains and eyes to fit Spot, so it can tap into AIM and take part in the different autonomous processes on site: “Until recently, Spot could only navigate between predetermined points, and we gave it the ability to navigate via satellite, and connected Spot to our cloud in order to control and deploy the autonomous robot from anywhere in the world,” explains Raz.
When Spot does the dirty work
While taking a morning walk with Spot at Percepto’s testing site, we saw as he entered a shed, which the smell alone would have the strongest humans gasping for air , and checked out the pipes, then continued on its mission to check water gages. Obviously, the smell doesn’t bother the mechanical beast, but imagine a warehouse leaking hazardous materials or areas with high radiation levels - and realize the potential. The drone detects an anomaly, and immediately launches Spot to cover from the ground - the whole process is done autonomously, based on advanced computer vision and AI technologies. And, yes, when needed, a human operator can take over remotely.
The training ground was pretty chill for Spot, but it’s not hard to imagine numerous other ways for the robo-dog to help industry: Dangerous mines, hazardous chemical plants, massive industrial complexes, as a small example. Collaboration between Percepto and Boston Dynamics is still in its infancy, as with incorporating robots into industry, so we expect to hear of many more interesting developments coming out of this partnership for years to come.
Percepto was founded in 2014 by CEO Dor Abuhasira, CTO Sagi Blonder, CPO Raviv Raz, and CCO Ariel Avitan. The company employs 80 workers split between Israel, Australia, and the U.S. The company has raised $72.5 million to date.