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National Robotarium to Use ‘Spot’ Robot to Save Lives

David Paul

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National Robotarium
Scotland’s first ‘Spot’ robot will aid research into helping humans in hazardous locations, cutting CO2, and supporting construction projects.

A robot made famous by dancing on YouTube is set to help save lives by supporting hazardous environment research at Edinburgh’s National Robotarium.

The robot, believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland, is part of the “Spot” range created by Boston Dynamics.

Experts at the Robotarium, based at Heriot-Watt University, will use the new hardware to carry out research into how robots can support humans in hazardous environments, including offshore energy inspections and disaster recovery.

The £60,000 robot will be fitted with “telexistence” tech, which lets humans experience an environment without being there, using microphones and cameras to relay sounds and videos.

Professor Yvan Petillot, professor of robotics and autonomous systems at Heriot-Watt University and co-academic lead of the National Robotarium, said: “Fitting this robot with our telexistence technology means we can carry out a range of experiments.

“We can test how the robot can help and support people working in hazardous environments, including oil and gas platforms and oil refineries.

“In search and rescue operations or following accidents, Spot robots fitted with our sensors could monitor a casualty’s vital signs and transmit images and sounds back to a hospital, allowing doctors to offer advice on treatment or decide when it’s safe to move a patient.

“Robots of this design can climb over rubble, walk up and downstairs, and cope with hazards like dust and rain. These features will prove very useful as we develop more ways to ensure robots can help keep people safe and save companies money.”


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Dr Sen Wang, autonomous systems lead at the National Robotarium, added: “Through a project with the ORCA Hub, the first application for our research with this new robot will be supporting the construction industry. We are going to fit lidar to our robot, which is similar to radar but uses light instead of radio waves.

“That will allow the robot to build up a picture of its surroundings while spotting obstacles like rubble on construction sites. Our Spot, however, is unique. We have set it up to be a moving data collector and data centre, equipped with advanced telepresence solutions.”

Wang added: “When we deploy it on construction sites, it will collect and measure in real-time, relaying the data to multiple experts at once, all around the world. This means construction companies, regardless of their location, can benefit from worldwide expertise.

“Using Spot in this way has the potential to speed up the construction process, reduce costs of re-work, detect hazards, increase efficiency and improve quality control.”

This latest project is the next in a series carried out through the Robotarium. In April, the centre gained £800k in funding to aid the development of telexistence technology.

Robotics software company Cyberselves is leading a project alongside the Robotarium to develop tools allowing robots to replace humans in hazardous underwater environments.

Additionally, the development of an AI-powered robotic glove was announced in February this year. It is hoped the project could help millions of people recover muscle grip in their hands.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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