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'Is that a robot herding sheep?' Kiwi startup teaches old dog new tricks

22 May 2020

Have you ever seen a robotic dog herd sheep? That’s exactly what happened right here in New Zealand, all thanks to a partnership between global robotics stalwart Boston Dynamics, a Kiwi startup called Rocos, and a robotic dog called Spot.

Rocos is an Auckland-based company that developed a robot operations software platform. The company struck a deal with Boston Dynamics to teach Spot new tricks.

Spot was already pretty advanced in its capabilities – it can climb stairs, open doors, navigate rugged environments – and now it can herd sheep remotely.

Spot’s missions can be designed and edited on the fly, and sensor data collected on the mission can be accessed by remote teams. The robot can also be manually teleoperated to investigate issues, capture new data, or be redirected as required. 

“The age of autonomous robots is upon us,” declares Rocos CEO David Inggs.

“We’re working with organisations like Boston Dynamics to help accelerate the adoption of robotics. By connecting robots to the cloud, we can help them combine a cloud software layer with robotics to achieve physical automation at scale. Our customers are augmenting their human workforces to automate physical processes that are often dull, dirty, or dangerous.”

The US-based Boston Dynamics team did early testing in which they remotely accessed Spot through Rocos’ web UI. From there, they were able to help Spot navigate New Zealand terrain.

To accompany this testing, the two companies created a video that explores how robots could help in farming environments.

“We're excited to see Rocos enabling key features for Spot and our industry partners. The industry applications we’re exploring with Rocos will see this important technology create new efficiencies for businesses around the world,” says Boston Dynamics VP of business development, Michael Perry.

Rocos & Boston Dynamics’ joint technology could help organisations can plan and schedule missions, remotely operate their robots in the exploration of uncharted territory, capture 3D visualisations and other sensor data in their environment, navigate risky or dangerous terrain, and proactively intervene in required situations. All of this possible in either offline or online modes.

“Robotics companies are producing very capable machines for achieving specific tasks. The missing link is a cloud-based platform to connect, monitor and automate the activities of a fleet. With Boston Dynamics and Rocos, organisations can now design, schedule and manage inspection missions remotely," says Inggs. 

Rocos was founded in 2017. The company says it’s inspired by a globally connected future, where autonomous robots accelerate change for good — and provide some of the important technology that will get us there.