The most discussed – and certainly the most photographed – tool featured at Autodesk University this year wasn’t a scanner or a piece of software: it was a robot. Several of the Boston Dynamics dog-sized “Spot” robots were present and demonstrated some impressive tricks, but it wasn’t all for show. Their presence was part of a major announcement that Boston Dynamics plans to collaborate with Trimble and Hilti to provide a proof-of-concept for robotic automation. The collaboration will explore the integration of Trimble’s and Hilti’s construction management software solutions, GNSS technology and reality capture devices with Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot platform.
There’s been a long-standing desire to automate certain steps in construction and surveying, especially in workflows that have routine and tedious tasks, or in situations where workplace safety is an issue. If you can free up humans to do more important or cognitive tasks – and let the machines do the more repetitive or hazardous ones – you can accomplish more while not wasting the time of an employee.
Certainly more automation has been introduced into surveying over time, and with advanced features in total stations automating many of the steps (registration, leveling, etc.) the overall workflows are being streamlined. But there’s an entirely new potential for automation, and that’s for actual robots to automate the surveying.
In addition to the similar HoloBuilder announcement focused on construction documentation, this partnership signals that there is increasing interest in using more automated and intelligent platforms in some of the ore hazardous places that need to be scanned and surveyed.
The Spot platform is particularly well-suited for some surveying and construction tasks because it is able to provide a consistent output, work longer hours, and can take more abuse and face more hazards than a worker can. It can also easily navigate the dynamics of an ever-changing job site, or the uneven terrain of a remote location. Trimble plans to equip Spot with one of its total stations. In the picture below, it is equipped with the X7 scanner from Trimble.
The companies will collaborate to develop a “proof-of-concept” solution and will be equipped with Trimble’s and Hilti’s reality capture devices as its payload and directly communicating with a cloud-based construction management application. Multi-directional communication between the robot, Trimble’s and Hilti’s payloads and the cloud application support a continuous flow of information and closes the loop for the construction environment.
According to Aviad Almagor, senior director for Mixed Reality and Brain-Computer Interface at Trimble, increasing safety is the goal.
“Utilizing robots for routine tasks in hazardous environments to improve safety, efficiency, and data capture consistency is part of our digital transformation vision.”
VP of Business development at Boston Dynamics echoed that sentiment in a press release.
“Deploying an integrated solution in the real-world environment doing dirty and dangerous work, before, during and after the construction stage is a common vision for the three companies, which can help drive the transformation of the construction industry.”