Legged robots have lagged behind wheeled models for commercial applications, but they could soon catch up, thanks to Boston Dynamics Inc.’s latest partnership. Rocos Global Ltd. today announced that is working with Boston Dynamics on remote management of the Spot quadruped robot.
Mobile service robots have received new attention during the COVID-19 pandemic for use cases including disinfection, drone deliveries, and food preparation. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston recently demonstrated Spot as a vehicle for telemedicine and maintaining “social distancing.”
“We’re working with organizations like Boston Dynamics to help accelerate the adoption of robotics,” stated David Inggs, CEO of Rocos. “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.”
Rocos gives Spot operators cloud-based tools
Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics introduced Spot in 2016 as a lighter model than its predecessors, BigDog, LittleDog, and the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), which were funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the hopes of developing robots that could traverse any terrain and carry loads for soldiers. Spot weighs about 55 lb. (25 kg.).
After SoftBank Group acquired Boston Dynamics from Alphabet Inc. in 2017, the company focused more on commercial applications. Boston Dynamics made the software development kit (SDK) for Spot open-source in January 2020. It released Spot 2.0, which includes improvements to autonomy, communications, navigation, and payload support, earlier this month.
Auckland, N.Z.-based Rocos was founded in 2017 and provides a cloud-based platform for managing robot operations. The company said its Rocos platform enables Spot users to design and schedule missions, remotely operate the robot and access the data it gathers, and immediately redirect Spot as needed.
“Robotics companies are producing very capable machines for achieving specific tasks,” said Inggs. “The missing link is a cloud-based platform to connect, monitor and automate the activities of a fleet.”
Rocos said its platform works in online and offline modes. In early testing, a Boston Dynamics team in the U.S. used Rocos’ Web-based interface to navigate Spot in previously uncharted terrain in New Zealand, said the companies.
Growing partnerships and applications for Spot
With greater autonomy and remote-control options, Spot could be more useful in hazardous environments and provide real-time data for the agriculture, construction, and energy industries, said the companies. The quadruped robot is available for lease, and its cost is similar to that of a car.
“We’re excited to see Rocos enabling key features for Spot and our industry partners,” said Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics. “The industry applications we’re exploring with Rocos will see this important technology create new efficiencies for businesses around the world.”
Boston Dynamics has pursued strategic partnerships to improve Spot’s capabilities and find new markets. It recently integrated HoloBuilder Inc.’s software for documenting construction sites into the SpotWalk software. Along with Open Robotics, Boston Dynamics joined the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, a public-private consortium for helping U.S. industry be competitive.
Earlier this month, Boston Dynamics announced a partnership with machine vision firm Vinsa Inc. to provide “actionable insights for operations managers.” Spot continues to get smarter as it leads the way for business uses of legged robots.