Coronavirus: Robodog ‘Spot’ herds sheep in New Zealand as humans stay home

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As the coronavirus keeps humans at home, it has fallen on one robot dog to keep the sheep in line.

Spot, a yellow robot dog, has been herding sheep in New Zealand’s countryside in a project partnered by US-based robot maker Boston Dynamics with robot software developer Rocos. A video released by Rocos titled “autonomous farm work – enter the robots” shows Spot herding sheep in a field and navigating rugged farmland terrain.

Spot, who has featured in numerous other Boston Dynamics videos, is built to traverse difficult terrain that robots would not normally be able to cover. The robot can be equipped with a variety of sensors such as heat, gas, and light.

“The age of autonomous robots is upon us. We’re working with organizations embracing this technology to achieve next-level business performance. Our customers are augmenting their human workforces to automate physical processes that are often dull, dirty, or dangerous,” said Rocos CEO David Inggs, in a blog post announcing the partnership with Boston Dynamics on the company’s website.

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The development of robots capable of doing human jobs has received renewed focus due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented people from working under lockdown measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus. In this context, robots like Spot could allow companies to continue operating without relying on workers to the same extent as previously.

Durable robots such as Spot may also help humans explore new lands. Throughout testing the robot, Rocos noted in its blog post that Boston Dynamics was able to access “previously uncharted terrain in New Zealand” when testing Spot, while remotely accessing the robot online from the US.

“Through the use of this joint technology, organizations can plan and schedule missions, remotely operate their robots in the exploration of uncharted territory, capture 3D visualizations and other sensor data in their environment, navigate risky or dangerous terrain, and proactively intervene in required situations,” the blog post read.

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