Boston Dynamics Touts Partnerships With Construction Firms

Image: HoloBuilder

November 19, 2019      

In a pair of announcements, Boston Dynamics today announced collaborations with several companies that would allow the company’s Spot Robot platform to help automate tasks in the construction industry.

Trimble and Hilti plan to integrate its construction management software solutions, GNSS technology and reality capture devices with the Spot platform, and HoloBuilder released SpotWalk, a product integration with Spot that brings 360-degree reality capture to construction projects.

Capturing data

Trimble said autonomous robots can “play a significant role in construction,” particularly in areas of production and quality control workflows, through the automation of routine and tedious tasks. The companies plan to develop a proof-of-concept system where Spot is equipped with Trimble’s and Hilti’s reality capture devices that directly communicate with a cloud-based construction management application. The goal is for Spot to provide consistent output, deliver improved efficiency on repeatable tasks, and enable up-to-date as-built data analysis.

Spot Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics says its Spot robot can help construction firms with tracking progress on job sites.

The terrain-agnostic capabilities of Spot support the dynamic construction environment, enabling the robot to bypass obstacles and maintain its defined path to support routine tasks such as daily site scans, progress monitoring, asset management, and remote support. The communication between the Trimble and Hilti payloads, the Spot robot and the cloud application will support a continuous flow of data and close the loop for the construction environment, Trimble said.

“Utilizing robots for routine tasks in hazardous environments to improve safety, efficiency, and data capture consistency is part of our digital transformation vision,” said Aviad Almagor, senior director for Mixed Reality and Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) at Trimble. “We are excited for this latest collaboration and looking forward to the potential integration of our hardware and software solutions with the Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot to enhance field-oriented workflows, reduce amount of rework and facilitate on-site tasks.”

“Trimble’s and Hilti’s domain knowledge, market leadership and technologies are a great fit for our robotic platform,” said Michael Perry, vice president of Business Development at Boston Dynamics. “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.”

HoloBuilder’s SpotWalk

In the HoloBuilder SpotWalk app, Spot can walk job sites autonomously, capturing 360-degree images that record the progress of a construction project over time. The process gives contractors, trade partners, and owners a “living digital record” of the project, allowing for quality and accuracy control. The application creates repeatable, actionable data, and addresses all phases of a construction project to improve productivity, HoloBuilder said.

SiteAI, a machine learning engine from HoloBuilder, analyzes images captured by SpotWalk to provide insight into the job site. Project site data, combined with the quantifiable analysis, enables contractors and owners to report on progress, HoloBuilder said.

“Time and accuracy are two things that are very important to a job site,” said Andrew Cameron, a project manager at Hensel Phelps. “Traditionally, you would have to sacrifice time out of a busy day to harvest jobsite pictures and organize them. This partnership between HoloBuilder and Boston Dynamics removes a time-consuming step while providing accurate construction photos with a high degree of fidelity.”

Hensel Phelps conducted early pilot tests of the SpotWalk app as part of the $1.2 billion project for the San Francisco International Airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal 1. HoloBuilder said the pilot showed that with minimal training on-site, a project team can get SpotWalk functioning.

The SpotWalk app operates in two general modes – the first enables teams to teach Spot the capture route by driving the robot via an intuitive smartphone interface; the second mode drives Spot autonomously on its trained path, taking pictures along the way at defined capture locations.

“The SpotWalk app is a first of its kind integration for Boston Dynamics’ robots,” said Boston Dynamic’s Michael Perry. “Our efforts have been to create a highly mobile robotics platform that can easily navigate unstructured or unknown environments. HoloBuilder’s SpotWalk app takes this a step further by creating an easy-to-use interface that fits seamlessly into construction workflows. We’re excited to see this integration start rolling out to early customers soon.”

Both companies said they will partner with innovative companies willing to provide feedback and continue advancing the Spot and SpotWalk app. Starting today, SpotWalk is available through a six-month early adopter program in which customers receive two Spot robots, the full HoloBuilder technology suite, and on-site training.