Boston dynamics robot dog, Spot.
Boston dynamics robot dog, Spot.

What will UJ do with the Robot Dog, SPOT?

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Sep 9, 2021

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Earlier this week, Professor Marwala, University of Johannesburg Rector, posted a video on Twitter to introduce the new University of Johannesburg Robot dog, Spot.

The tweet attracted numerous comments, with some indicating that it’s terrifying. In the tweet, it was not indicated what the university was planning to do with the dog. It is understood, however, that the university is planning an official announcement later this afternoon.

The dog has been used in some parts of the world for various use cases. Over the last year, the robot has been used to do critical patient intake at hospitals and even deliver food, water, or medicine to quarantine facilities to protect healthcare professionals. Beyond the medical field, Spot has been used to disinfect workplaces and even help some people perform on-site jobs remotely.

In February this year, the New York Police Department used Spot to defuse a hostage situation in the Bronx. The police department used the robot dog to find a gunman who’d barricaded himself in a building after he’d accidentally shot someone in the head during a parking dispute. When video of the device went viral, its flexible legs and camera-for-a-head design spooked people. The robot is quadrupedal but doesn’t actually look like a dog.

There was no public consultation before the dog was deployed, and residents hadn’t known to expect to see robot dogs respond to hostage situations. After community backlash, the New York Police Department stopped using the “Digidog,” a four-legged robot occasionally deployed in dangerous situations. Critics said the machine illustrated the unnecessary militarisation of the police.

Spot is the quadruped robot that climbs stairs and traverses rough terrain with unprecedented ease, yet is small enough to use indoors. Built to be a rugged and customisable platform, Spot has a proven track record of supporting remote operations and autonomous sensing across a variety of industries, and is remarkably intuitive, enabling you to focus on the job you do best.

Spot Explorer is designed for developers eager to explore how flexible mobile robots can be adapted for tasks ranging from industrial inspection to entertainment. Spot comes ready to operate, right out of the box. With its flexible API and payload interfaces, Spot can be customised for a variety of applications.

The robot was designed by Boston Dynamics, a US entity, and has been developing and promoting Spot for years but only just brought the robot to market this past June. The robotic dogs are available to US businesses for more than a million rand ($74 500), and the company estimates there are now more than 400 Spot models in the world.

South Africans are looking to learn what Prof Marwala and the University of Johannesburg will do with the dog.


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