Spot the robot gets a factory job.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 may be the South Korean automaker's most popular new vehicle right now, but it's also seriously interested in robot technology. Late last year, Hyundai bought a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics, perhaps the world's most advanced robotics companies. And now it's making good use of that investment with a new robot called Spot that kind of looks like a dog.
More appropriately, it's officially called the "Factory Safety Service Robot" and it's about to begin a pilot operation at a Kia production plant in South Korea. Based on Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot equipped with AI, autonomous navigation, teleoperation technologies, and a computing payload, Spot is capable of providing various types of assistance on the job.
Its 3D Lidar thermal camera enables it to detect humans nearby, so it's won't walk over anyone's foot. It can also detect when a door is open. More importantly, this robot can go where people can't, specifically "high-temperature situations and potential fire hazards." Narrow spaces and blind areas are within its capabilities, too. Thanks to remote control capabilities, someone can monitor Spot's activities via a livestream.
Another option factory management has is simply to let the robot roam and observe. If it detects something potentially dangerous, it'll send alarms to management immediately. Manual operation is possible as well. Think of this as real-time sharing of on-site photos that can also act as a first warning.
Spot is only a test project for now and Hyundai says it's possible to connect several factory service robots to a larger control system if so desired. Hyundai's contribution to the project includes several systems, specifically AI, the thermal camera, Lidar, and navigation.
"The Robot will help detect risks and secure people's safety in industrial sites," said Dong Jin Hyun, Head of Hyundai Motor Group Robotics Lab. "We will also continue to create smart services that detect dangers at industrial sites and help support a safe work environment through continuous collaborations with Boston Dynamics." Factory workers shouldn't be concerned robots will take their jobs one day, but rather know they have a non-human helping hand ready to go whenever necessary.