Technology for the future

Spot, the four-legged robot that can trot around your office, climb stairs and dance with the Rolling Stones, is also part of a research project at the Pilot Factory of the Future, Line Zero, at Tonsley.

The project conducted by Flinders University, in conjunction with the Australian Transformation Institute, is exploring the concept of using different advanced technologies, such as an augmented reality headset, a quadruped robot, or a drone, to undertake a series of visual inspection tasks in simulated harsh environments.

David Hart, Director of Dematec Automation, participated in this project in October and had the opportunity to take Spot for a test drive. Spot is controlled using something similar to a high-end gaming console controller with an integrated touchscreen and can be triggered to perform pre-programmed activities, or manually controlled by the operator.

Spot’s ‘head’ incorporates a 360 degree camera as well as a high resolution pat / tilt / zoom (PTZ) camera which enables a remote operator to get good visibility of Spot’s surrounds.

“Although I’m a few years removed from any gaming pursuits, it was a relatively quick process to get to the point where I could manoeuvre Spot around to undertake the simulated inspection tasks via the PTZ camera display. I’m sure my Minecraft loving son would be on top of it even faster,” said David.

He also used an augmented reality (AR) headset to communicate and record ‘hands-free’ work instructions for an inspection and intervention task. “I found this more difficult to adapt to than Spot, although greater familiarity with the spatial location of ‘virtual pop-ups’, hand gestures, etc., would likely improve this. I could see how AR could be a valuable tool in training and induction activities in the workplace as an initial adoption point.”

The research project titled: “Finding faults: How can technology support human visual inspection in harsh environments”, will examine how work might change with the introduction of smart systems and advanced manufacturing technologies, and what this means for businesses and individuals in terms of work processes, efficiency, and safety.

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