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Doing more with Spot. Boston Dynamics introduces new features

Josh Spires | 04 May, 2022 | The Sphere Drones Blog

Featured image for Doing more with Spot. Boston Dynamics introduces new features

Boston Dynamics continues to add new features and capabilities to the Spot platform. Its latest improvements include hardware upgrades and an expanded payload ecosystem.

In addition to Spot’s revolutionary mobility, one of its most important attributes is that the robot is designed as a scalable platform that is constantly evolving and expanding on the number of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs it can handle for our customers.

Our customers use Spot to collect thousands of data points to drive predictive maintenance models, build comprehensive digital twins of their construction sites, and minimise the risk to employees in hazardous situations.

We've continued to add many new features to Spot, as well as improvements to the overall platform, that make it a more capable tool to help solve some of our customers’ biggest operational challenges. Today that list includes robot upgrades, a new tablet, and a new charger. We’ve also expanded the payload and software ecosystem that builds on top of the robot to make it the perfect mobile sensor platform for your application.

Optimised & ruggedised, industrial hardware

Spot’s impressive mobility and base functionality require the best available hardware to ensure reliability and ease-of-use. To stay at the cutting edge, Boston Dynamics recently upgraded Spot’s base sensors, integrated a new and improved tablet controller, and designed a smarter and faster charger to keep Spot running at maximum efficiency.

Spot’s five stereo cameras now provide full colour imagery along with the existing depth information. These cameras, located around the robot’s body, help the robot map its surroundings in three dimensions. While Spot doesn’t need colour images to see, this change improves the operator’s view, making it easier to decipher the robot’s environment from the tablet or from Spot’s remote operation software, Scout.

The new and improved Spot tablet will be the biggest upgrade for many Spot operators. Used both to drive the robot and create autonomous missions, the tablet is most operators’ first point of contact with the platform. Boston Dynamics implemented several upgrades to ensure the controller is both easy to use and robust enough to meet operators’ needs in the field.

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Finally, Spot’s charger is now smarter and faster, bringing Spot’s newest battery models to full capacity in an hour or less. Users can refer to the OLED display for real-time information on battery charge and can continue to charge the robot directly or hot-swap batteries for continuous operation.

Expanded payload ecosystem

The robot itself is just one piece of the puzzle. The full Spot solution includes the community, customisation options, and collaboration ecosystem that helps deliver the most value from the robot. Through Boston Dynamics and our partners, customers can outfit Spot with a variety of payloads, including additional cameras, sensors, laser scanners, and more. These payloads, paired with specialised software, enable Spot to collect and process the data that gives industrial teams valuable insights into what’s happening in their facilities. This ecosystem is constantly evolving, and today Boston Dynamics is excited to announce two new pieces of hardware that will enable next-level computation, radio communications, and 5G connectivity.

Edge computing capabilities

The first of these additions is the Spot CORE I/O, a new high-efficiency computer payload, which is now available for pre-order. This payload enables Spot to process data in the field for tasks including computer vision-based site inspections, continuous data collection, and more. The unit uses the Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX module, which includes a 6-core ARM processor with a dedicated GPU.

This compact, powerful payload is designed with all of our users in mind. For developers, the payload offers flexibility with various GPIO ports and regulated power connections. For our end users, the unit itself is weather-sealed and ruggedised so it will work reliably anywhere Spot goes. With Spot CORE I/O, integrating, implementing, and operationalising custom sensors and other payloads on the Spot platform is simple and straightforward.

Communications partners & providers

Reliable communication with Spot is critical for customers to receive data about their site in a timely fashion. They want up-to-the-minute information from the robot no matter where it may be on site at the time. Currently, most customers are achieving this through WiFi, homegrown LTE solutions, or a combination or the two. However, in large or remote facilities, these options can pose challenges like coverage gaps and lag time, as well as potentially introducing IT overhead to connect new technology to a secure corporate network. Our new payloads will help mitigate these challenges and increase deployment flexibility.

The new Rajant Kinetic Mesh® Radio Kit is designed to help you deploy Spot quickly and easily within an isolated network, with no infrastructure required. The kit ships with a Rajant ES1 BreadCrumb® radio payload that mounts onto Spot and three standalone Kinetic Mesh radios which are pre-configured to sync together out of the box for easy deployment. Simply place the radios around your site in the areas Spot will be working and the robot will be able to navigate the site effectively with full connectivity. Whether in remote environments, underground, inside, or in areas confronted with physical obstructions or RF interference, the Rajant Kinetic Mesh Radio Kit provides a secure and reliable site-wide network, offering coverage of up to 200,000 square feet.

We’ve also added support for 5G connectivity with the Spot CORE I/O payload, which includes a built-in 5G modem. The new communications options enable 5G connectivity benefits such as faster and more reliable network connections. Customers implementing 5G with the Spot CORE I/O will gain additional flexibility in how they get data off of Spot remotely in both private and public 5G networks and will be able to take advantage of both the fast processing of data and fast transfer of data insights.

Boston Dynamics is also excited to welcome AT&T as our first 5G provider. Spot CORE I/O customers in the US will be able to use the payload to connect to AT&T’s network, with support for more and 5G providers coming in the future. Customers with AT&T’s private 5G networks will be able to teleoperate Spot immediately through this payload, and public 5G teleoperation will be made available in the near future.

Source: Boston Dynamics

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