Technology students from the Zwolle region have the scoop: they are the first students in the Netherlands to have access to robot dog Spot, an advanced robot that works together with humans. Students and companies are researching what Spot means for the manufacturing industry.
Nowadays, we are all familiar with the robotic vacuum cleaner that independently cleans the floor and the thermostat that turns on the heat automatically when the temperature drops. These are examples of robotics and automation. Robot dog Spot, developed by Boston Dynamics, takes robotization to the next level! This robot works together with humans but most importantly can perform tasks that are dangerous for humans.
“Spot walks on four legs and looks and feels with cameras and sensors. Spot can independently identify where it is damp or not, supply machines and check whether the right materials are used in the right place”, says entrepreneur Arend van der Sluis of the high-tech company Tembo in Kampen. “He can walk on any sort of terrain and even climb stairs.”
The opportunities that Spot has to offer for this industry was for Tembo a reason to bring Spot from America to the Netherlands. Spot costs 75,000 euros, including import duties. The robot dog finds its home at Perron038’s innovation center in Zwolle. “He is staying there because we want to investigate, together with students and other partners, what this type of robot means for the manufacturing industry in the near future.”
What about a robotic colleague
According to van der Sluis, robots will be our new colleagues. In fact, they can generate work. “A robot like Spot can walk through a machine and reach places that are hard to reach for technicians. As a result, employees have their hands free and they can check the production process and ensure the quality,” explains the entrepreneur. “Another advantage is that production that is now done in low-wage countries can come back to the Netherlands.
During the corona crises it turned out that we are way too dependent on supplies from countries such as China, so therefore it is smart to make more in the Netherlands. Besides, why ship products all the way from the other side of the world, when we can produce it here for the same price? Lastly and very important: local production is better for the environment.”
Replacing the battery independently
To get to know Spot and explore his possibilities, students are now looking for a way to let the robot dog replace its battery by himself. “It might have to involve another robot, who will remove the almost empty battery from Spot and replace it with a full one. If we can make this work, Spot can be deployed almost continuously, without having anyone to worry about him. But more importantly, we learn what we can do with this kind of robotics,” emphasizes van der Sluis.
Learning comes first
Learning comes first, is apparent from the story of van der Sluis. “If we were doing this to get all kinds of production done quickly, we would simply have bought more robots like Spot. With Perron038 we want students and companies in the entire area of Zwolle to benefit from this. Spot serves as an inspiration for the integration of this type of robotics in the workplace and society. And of course, to show talent how interesting the manufacturing industry is.”