Boston Dynamics robot is now a watchdog at Korean auto factory
The spot may not be work for the cops more, but Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot already has a new watchdog post at a South Korean auto factory. Cue a new wave of “Black mirror” memes.
Its official role will be that of “factory security service robot,” according to a press release from Hyundai Motor Group, which acquired Boston Dynamics from Softbank in June. The automaker announced this week that Spot is operating at Kia’s plant in South Korea as part of a pilot program.
To monitor and enforce safety rules at the factory, Spot is equipped with an extensive toolkit of high-tech features that ring true for slightly dystopian. Its integrated thermal camera and 3D LiDAR sensor can detect whether a door is open or closed or whether there are people in the immediate vicinity. It can also detect potential fire hazards and temperature spikes.
One of the most useful features of Spot is its ability to use image recognition powered by machine learning to learn custom tasks and skills, such as navigation patterns or how to play fetch. The robot can navigate the factory autonomously or be controlled remotely through a secure web page that broadcasts a live feed of its movements in real time.
Through this same web page, Spot sends regular updates to superiors on its activity log and photos of any on-site situations it encounters. If it detects a danger during its tour, its systems automatically send an alert to plant managers. Due to the robot’s small size, it can navigate tight spaces and identify blind spots that can be difficult for its fellow humans to see, Hyundai said.
Spot’s role as a factory security service robot marks Hyundai’s first collaborative project with Boston Dynamics, Dong Jin Hyun, head of Hyundai’s robotics lab, said in a statement.
“The Robot will make it possible to detect risks and ensure the safety of people on industrial sites,” he continues. “We will also continue to create intelligent services that detect hazards at industrial sites and help ensure a safe work environment through ongoing collaborations with Boston Dynamics. “
As part of its pilot program, Spot will conduct nighttime security patrols at the Kia plant. Hyundai will access the robot’s effectiveness once its trial is complete to determine whether to expand its patrol areas or give other sites their own spots.
Boston Dynamics under fire from critics earlier this year for partnering with the New York City Police Department to put the so-called Digidogs on the ground. Under the contract, most of Spot’s tasks would have involved mundane tasks such as performing safety inspections for network workers or digitizing construction plans for companies interested in new construction projects. However, given the NYPD long story misconduct, people were understandably worried that they had an army of robodogs in command.
Widespread backlash prompted the NYPD to quietly cut ties with Boston Dynamics in April. At the time, a company spokesperson said the New York Times its robodogs were never designed “to be used as weapons, to hurt or intimidate people or animals”.