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Robot ‘dog’ can help experts measure hazardous environments

Scottish scientists have used a four-legged robotic dog as part of research into how the technology could help people who work in hazardous environments.

Experts from the National Robotarium, based at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, are equipping the robot with ‘telexistence’ technology, which allows people to experience an environment without being there, using devices such as microphones and cameras to transmit sound and video.to pass.

The £60,000 robot is part of the “Spot” range created by robot design company Boston Dynamics.

The scientists will use the telexistence hardware to investigate how robots can support humans in hazardous environments such as offshore energy inspection and disaster recovery.

“By equipping this robot with our telexistence technology, we can conduct a series of experiments,” said Professor Yvan Petillot, a professor of robotics and autonomous systems at Heriot-Watt University and co-academic leader of the National Robotarium.

“We can test how the robot can help and support people who work in hazardous environments, including oil and gas platforms and oil refineries.

” Petillot added that in search and rescue, Spot robots filled with their sensors can monitor a victim’s vital signs and send images and sounds back to a hospital so doctors can advise on treatment or decide when it’s safe to go. to move a patient.

“Robots with this design can climb over rubble, walk up and down stairs and deal with hazards such as dust and rain,” he continued.

“These features will prove very useful as we develop more ways to ensure robots can help protect people and save companies money.”

Through a project with the ORCA Hub, the first application for their research with the robot will help support the construction industry, said Dr. Sen Wang, an associate professor at Heriot-Watt University.

He said the team plans to mount lidar on its robot — a technology similar to radar, but that uses light instead of radio waves.

This allows the robot to build up a picture of its environment while seeing obstacles such as debris on construction sites, he explains. “However, our place is unique,” ​​he said.

“We have set it up as a moving data collector and data center, equipped with advanced telepresence solutions.

When we deploy it on construction sites, it collects and measures in real time and transmits the data to multiple experts at once, all over the world.

This allows construction companies, regardless of their location, to benefit from global expertise.

” According to Wang, using Spot in this way has the potential to speed up the construction process, reduce rework costs, detect hazards, increase efficiency and improve quality control in such locations.