Spot might not be working with the police anymore, but Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot has a new job as a guard dog in a South Korean auto plant. A new wave of Black Mirror memes is now in full swing.
According to a press release by Hyundai Motor Group, the company that acquired Boston Dynamics from Softbank in June, it will serve as a Factory Safety Service Robot. Spot will be operating in South Korea at Kia's South Korean plant as part of a pilot program, the automaker said.
Spot is equipped with a wide range of high-tech tools to enforce safety regulations. The integrated thermal camera and 3D LiDAR sensors can detect if a door is closed or open, as well as if people are within its immediate vicinity. It can detect potential fire hazards or temperature spikes.
Spot's greatest feature is its ability to use machine learning and image recognition to learn custom tasks, such as navigation patterns and how to play fetch. The robot can be controlled remotely by a secure webpage, which broadcasts live streaming of its movements.
Spot also sends regular updates via this webpage to its higher-ups regarding its activity log, as well as photos of any situations it encounters. Spot will send an alert to factory managers if it senses danger while on its rounds. Hyundai stated that the robot's small size allows it to navigate tight spaces and find blind spots that might be difficult for human coworkers.
Spots' role as a Factory Safety Service Robot is Hyundais first collaboration project, stated Dong Jin Hyun (head of Hyundais robotics laboratory), in a statement.
He said that the Robot will be able to detect and protect people in dangerous industrial environments. Through ongoing collaborations with Boston Dynamics, we will continue to develop smart services that detect hazards at industrial sites and support safe work environments.
Spot will be performing late-night security patrols at Kias plants as part of the pilot program. Hyundai will assess the robot's effectiveness after its trial run to determine if it can expand its patrol areas and give other locations their own Spots.
Boston Dynamics was criticized earlier this year for its partnership with the New York City Police Department in order to deploy so-called Digidogs into the field. The contract would have meant that Spots' duties would have been mainly mundane, such as safety inspections of grid workers and scanning building layouts to companies interested in new construction. People were understandably worried about the NYPD's history of misconduct and the possibility of an army of robot dogs at their disposal.
In April, the NYPD quietly severed all ties with Boston Dynamics after a large backlash. A spokesperson for Boston Dynamics told The New York Times that the robodogs were not intended to inflict injury or harm on people or animals, but they could be used to protect them.