Cape Town – Spot is a “brave little dog” that goes into terrain that is often unsafe for people and could even change how rescue operations are performed on mines.
“It’s a brave little dog … It’s a little dog that could,” Dwyka Mining Services CEO Jamie van Schoor said on Wednesday.
Van Schoor said the digital workforce was not competing with labour, but was complementing labour.
Spot would be able to operate and “live” on mines in his kennel on his docking station, charging while offloading data.
“He sits on a docking station, charging and ready to deploy at the click of a button,” Van Schoor said.
Sharing his new best friend with the media on Wednesday, while walking in the streets of Cape Town to test his capabilities, Van Schoor said there were different ways of controlling Spot.
Spot’s capabilities are operator-controlled, and during the walk we saw the demonstration with someone on the control. But Van Schoor said Spot could also be controlled over a platform called Scout.
“Scout is a user interface, a software programme that means from a keyboard you can control Spot if you’ve got the right connectivity to that network.
“So provided that you are on the same LAN network, you can control Spot,” he said, adding that there could limitations on latencies which could cause a delay.
Weighing 37kg, Spot is agile and we saw him climb a grass slope, go up and down stairs, crawl through metal rings and comfortably walk the streets of Cape Town.
He drew the attention of motorists and passers-by who stopped to take photos and videos. Some just stared as the yellow-and-black robot dog crossed the road at an intersection.
Van Schoor said after blasting on a mine, it was important to know what fumes were given off. He said it takes about one to two hours to clear and flush the mines.
“Once it’s safe, we can send people back,” he said.
“There’s so many things that Spot can help you with – you would really need to identify what the quickest route to success would be.”
Van Schoor said mining was just the start for technology like Spot, which could be used at ports, industrial environments and “dirty industries”.
Operating Spot on the walk, Rethabile Letlala, operations director of Dwyka Mining Services, said it wasn’t as easy as it looked but it was rewarding.
Letlala often mimicked the movements he was making Spot perform.
The Boston Dynamics Spot Enterprise robot was showcased for the first time at the Mining Indaba 2022 this week. This was the destination of the walk that started at the V&A Waterfront.
Spot is equipped with Maestro’s Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) gas sensor and can be operated on mine sites to detect hazardous gasses such as carbon monoxide, without putting mining and ventilation teams in danger.
Teams would be able to capture “critical environmental data to proactively identify gas or temperature challenges”.
Spot is designed to navigate all types of terrain, allowing organisations to automate routine inspection tasks, capture data securely and safely, and allow for streamlined operations in complex and dangerous environments.
Delegates will be able to see Spot ‘in the metal’ with a Zephyr AQS at booth 908 at Dwyka Mining Services Technology Co.<LAB> in its custom transparent kennel, ready to deploy.
Van Schoor said they were excited to share Spot and its “amazing capabilities” with the delegates.
“In the spirit of technological collaboration, we have assembled the world’s best mining technologies to be on the stand with us to share and conceptualise end-to-end solutions for maximum impact for our mining clients,” van Schoor said.
Different devices could be attached to Spot, extending the robot’s ability to capture and process data, acting as remote sensing devices this will allow Spot to hear, see and smell in a virtual capacity.
Using the Spot Enterprise on-board processing capabilities, the data is shared over wi-fi and gas and temperature sensor readings are captured while the robot is in operation and displayed in real-time via the MaestroLink application. With the addition of a Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping) scanning unit sensor, such as the Emesent Hovermap, readings can be saved with precise co-ordinates in a high-fidelity point cloud that can be exported and examined in a variety of mining software packages.
“Spot is an amazing platform with almost unlimited applications,” said Letlala.
“The ability to get live environmental monitoring data ‘on the go’ by extending our remote sensing capability to ‘smell’ for hazardous gas detection from our new robot dog is very exciting.”
Once we reached the Mining Indaba, Spot drew a crowd and we got to see him interacting, or rather how other dogs interacted with him.
A police dog that was patrolling the area stood at attention as Spot went closer. The dog appeared confused at first, trying to identify what Spot was, and then seemed to relax the closer Spot got.
Eventually Spot moved to the entrance where a crowd formed a circle around it, and to entertain the crowd, Spot engaged in a push-up contest with one of the patrons, to the cheers of the crowd.
Really the little dog that could, Spot.