Spot the robot dog adopts role as construction site inspector

Boston Dynamics’ Spot is a versatile little robot. Able to pull trucks, work on oil rigs, and even herd sheep, the dog-like bot has now learned a new trick and has been helping Foster + Partners with its ongoing Battersea Roof Gardens project in London, England.

Foster + Partners’ Applied Research + Development group (ARD) collaborated with Boston Dynamics to task Spot with roaming around the Battersea project and it sounds like the robot has been genuinely useful, rather than just a novelty.

Spot used 3D laser scanning tech to capture and monitor construction progress. The robot made regular precision scans of the site, checking that the building work done matches the architectural plans and that everything is going smoothly. The usual scanning and processing times required for this sort of project have been reduced from weeks to just days, says Foster + Partners, freeing up significant staff resources.

Additionally, though building sites are very hazardous places, the robot can navigate stairs and other obstacles using its four legs without issue, and either work semi-autonomously or be controlled by a remote (it’s also worth mentioning that Spot has been used on a Japanese building site, so it’s not like it’s totally new to construction uses).

The Spot robot was used on Foster + Partners' Battersea Roof Gardens project
The Spot robot was used on Foster + Partners’ Battersea Roof Gardens project

Aaron Hargreaves/Foster + Partners

“Using our Battersea Roof Gardens mixed use project – part of the third phase of the Battersea Power Station development – as a testbed, the team devised a map to roughly set up the missions Spot needed to follow on site in order to scan certain areas and capture specific data,” explains Foster + Partners’ press release. “Returning to the site on a weekly basis allowed Spot to re-run the same missions with the process yielding a sequence of highly comparable, consistent models.”

As well as scanning the Battersea project, Foster + Partners also says that the bot has been instrumental in helping it produce a digital model of its own London HQ. Along with other sensors inside the building, Spot’s scans enabled the firm to get a better handle on how the building is used over time and make improvements to its efficiency.

Moving forward, Foster + Partners hopes to continue the collaboration and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine groups of Spot robots being commonplace on its building sites in the coming years. Indeed, with the addition of 3D-printing technology and bricklaying robots, the future of construction looks likely to feature such robots heavily, which could well spell trouble for some human jobs.

Source: Foster + Partners

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