Pompeii archaeological park has enlisted a four-legged robot called Spot to inspect the ancient Italian city’s streets and tunnels instead of humans.
Acting as a robotic guard dog, Spot will patrol Pompeii at nighttime or whenever the site is closed to tourists, providing a live feed for human officials situated off-site.
Part of Spot’s job is to investigate tunnels dug by illegal relic hunters, which are causing structural issues but would be dangerous or too tight for officials to access safely.
Spot, which is the product of US firm Boston Dynamics, is using its cameras and sensors to provide a feed of hard-to-reach Pompeii structures.
It’s capable of inspecting ‘even the smallest of spaces’, gathering and recording data useful for planning interventions to fix safety and structural issues.
Pompeii archaeological park has enlisted Spot the robot dog (pictured) to inspect the ancient city’s streets and tunnels for safety and structural issues
Spot, which is suited for indoor or outdoor use, can map its environment, sense and avoid obstacles, climb stairs and open doors
Today, the ruins of Pompeii are a popular tourist attraction, drawing a million visitors a year. Located on the west coast of Italy, Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe
SPOT THE ROBOT DOG
Creator: Boston Dynamics
Price: $75,000 (about £60,000)
Length: 43.3 inches (100cm)
Max speed: 1.6 metres per second
Operating temperature: -4°F to 113°F (-20°C to 45°C)
Battery capacity: 605 Wh
Typical runtime: 90 minutes
Cameras: 5 (frontleft, frontright, left, right, back)
Pompeii is an ancient city that was buried under volcanic ash and pumice by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
Today, its archaeological ruins cover around 440,000 square meters, but they face degradation from natural forces and human activity.
It’s unclear what all the structural issues are that Spot is looking for, although one is related to the tunnels dug by illegal relic hunters. MailOnline has contacted Pompeii archaeological park for more information.
‘We wish to test the use of these robots in the underground tunnels that were made by illegal excavators and which we are uncovering in the area around Pompeii,’ said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of Pompeii archaeological park.
‘Often the safety conditions within the tunnels dug by grave robbers are extremely precarious, as a consequence of which the use of a robot could signify a breakthrough that would allow us to proceed with greater speed and in total safety.’
Spot, which is suited for indoor or outdoor use, can map its environment, sense and avoid obstacles, climb stairs and open doors.
It can undertake hazardous tasks in a variety of inhospitable environments such as nuclear plants, offshore oil fields and construction sites.
Spot isn’t the only cutting-edge technology in use in Pompeii.
Pompeii archaeological park is also using Leica BLK2FLY, a flying laser scanner capable of autonomously conducting 3D scans.
Spot can undertake hazardous tasks in a variety of inhospitable environments such as nuclear plants, offshore oil fields and construction sites
Spot will also investigate tunnels dug by illegal relic hunters, which would be dangerous for officials to access
Today, Pompeii’s archaeological ruins cover around 440,000 square meters, but they face degradation from natural forces and human activity, such as illegal digging
Spot the robot dog was announced by Boston Dynamics back in 2016 but was under development for years before being released in June 2020 for a whopping $75,000 (about £60,000).
Spot can be used for a range of heavy duty applications, including inspecting rocket launch test sites, as demonstrated by SpaceX.
It’s also being deployed in the French army, helping military school personnel to complete training scenarios.
Spot has specifically been designed for business use – in fact, when a business buys a Spot unit, they have to acknowledge a stipulation in the terms and conditions that ‘it’s not certified safe for in-home use or intended for use near children’.
Pompeii, the preserved ancient Roman city, Italy, is situated 14 miles (23 km) southeast of Naples
Spot was announced by Boston Dynamics back in 2016 and underwent various trials before being released commercially on June 17, 2020
However, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert previously said that Spot will soon be available for home use.
‘We also have a project that I’m sure many of you are going to be very interested in, and that’s cleaning up your house,’ he said in 2020.
‘Now, Spot isn’t available yet for home use, but someday it will be.
‘I think you’re going to love the idea that the robot can be put in a room and use its vision system to identify your kids’ clothing that’s been lying around.’
The robot dog is also routinely featured in Boston Dynamics promotional videos dancing to musical numbers, such as ‘Uptown Funk’.
Last year, Spot even challenged K-pop boy band BTS to a dance-off.
NEW BOSTON DYNAMICS PRODUCT LINE FOR 2021
Spot Enterprise is a new version of Spot that comes equipped with self-charging capabilities and a dock.
This allows it to perform longer inspection tasks and data collection missions with little to no human interaction.
Boston Dynamics says: ‘Spot Enterprise leverages upgraded hardware for improved safety, communications, and behaviour in remote environments.
‘These upgrades expand the range that autonomous missions can cover, extend Wi-Fi support, add flexibility to Spot’s payload ports, and enable users to quickly offload large data sets collected during the robot’s mission.’
Spot Arm is the dog’s fifth limb, which has allowed it to open doors in past promotional videos but was not included in the final product released in 2020.
The add-on arm can manually or semi-autonomously grasp, lift, carry, place, and drag a wide variety of objects.
Boston Dynamics says: ‘It is also capable of manipulating objects with constrained movement and can open and close valves, pull levers and turn handles and knobs in coordination with its body to open standard push and pull doors.’
Scout is Boston Dynamics’ web-based software that enables operators to control their fleet of Spots from a virtual control room.
Operators can use Scout to take Spot anywhere a person could go on-site, allowing them to inspect critical equipment or hazardous areas from afar.
The software is designed with a simple user interface to run pre-programmed autonomous missions or manually control the robot.
This lets it perform various tasks such as walking or posing the robot to capture images and thermal data of obscured gauges or pipes, using Spot’s CAM+IR thermal imaging.