Why should we map that large factory with lasers by manually moving a tripod over and over again? That thought was at the heart of the car manufacturer Ford; the company will soon be hiring two Boston Dynamics robot dogs to scan a factory more efficiently.
Robot dogs named Fluffy and Spot will help Ford scan the large Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan, USA, starting in early August. This factory, which employs more than a thousand people, produces automatic gearboxes for SUVs and vans. To map the factory, a tripod was previously manually placed at different locations, where a laser scanned the surroundings for five minutes. According to Ford, this was relatively time consuming and expensive; the cost was $ 300,000 to scan a single factory.
The pilot hiring Fluffy and Spot aims to see if Ford can scan its factories at a fraction of the cost. Over the years, the necessary changes have been made to the conscious Van Dyke Transmission Plant and these are rarely documented, according to Ford. By seeing what the factory now looks like on the inside, the company can update the factory’s computer design and thus deploy the factory faster and better when new products need to be made, the thinking goes.
The robot dogs are equipped with five cameras and can scan 360 degrees. For the time being, Fluffy and Spot are still manually controlled by employees with a remote control, but the intention is that they will eventually perform their tasks without a walking ‘owner’. The robots can currently be programmed to follow a specific path and can be controlled up to a distance of fifty meters. According to Ford, they can handle difficult terrain and can just get up again after a possible fall.