Ford plans to introduce 2 semi-autonomous four-legged Boston Dynamic robot dogs, named Spot and Fluffy, to map its Michigan manufacturing plant by early August.
The robots are nicknamed Spot and Fluffy, and they are leased by Ford from Boston Dynamics, known for manufacturing advanced robots. Spot is three feet high, well-built, weighs about 70 pounds, and can be controlled remotely. One of the significant advantages of these robots is that they know basic skills like climbing stairs, avoiding walls, and even how to dance! I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be helpful, but that’s still pretty cool, right?
You may very well have seen other robots online before. However, very few have a sense of balance as good as Spot and Fluffy. They can run as fast as 3 mph with an average runtime of around 90 minutes. It has torque sensors in its joint cells, helping with weight distribution. If the robot finds itself tripping forward, there is a protocol that kicks in, helping it recover its balance. Boston Dynamics robots work exceptionally well over uneven surfaces as the camera enables 360 degrees obstacle avoidance.
When it does fall, there’s a protocol to get back on its feet too, which works most of the time, unless it falls in a steep ditch. It has a swappable battery with 2 payload ports, and it can carry up to 14kg on its back. It comes with crash protection and dynamic reaction, and can be operated from -20C to 45C temperatures.
“We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan,” Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager, says. “Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.”
Consequently, Spot and Fluffy could save Ford thousands of dollars as scanning a whole warehouse the old-school way could cost up to $300,000. One could then imagine that, if the robots work as well as planned, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the auto manufacturer hire even more Boston Dynamics robot dogs and expand the list of tasks they could take care of in the future.