Spot robot dog could soon be tending farms and herding sheep

Boston Dynamics' more portable version of its BigDog robot is getting around, figuratively and literally. At a time when social distancing and working remotely has become more than just a luxury, Spot's mobility and general-purpose design could be the key to keeping the world turning even with no humans in plain sight. That's the future that New Zealand robotics company Rocos is preparing for, with Spot doing the tedious and often dangerous work that farmers and herders might not be able to do for a while.

Although its bigger and older brethren were designed primarily for less peaceful uses, Spot's smaller form, more nimble appendages, and less expensive parts have made it ideal for a variety of applications. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there have already been plans to use the robot "dog" for deliveries or even to assist in law enforcement.

The robot's use has become even more important during these days when remote access has become the safe way for people to do their jobs. Spot's autonomous navigation allows it to overcome uneven and unfamiliar terrain while its variety of sensors allows users to get real-time feedback on the robot's surroundings.

Rocos' demonstrate the various ways Spot robots could be used in agriculture. Although that industry is no stranger to robots, Spot's use would be more "hands-on", inspecting produce or even herding sheep. All while owners and operators stay safely inside, even perhaps half a world away.

This is just one of the latest roles that the robot has suddenly found itself in during this COVID-19 pandemic. In Singapore, Spot is being used to remind park-goers to maintain a safe social distance from each other, though it could ironically attract more people to it. Closer to home, Spot is being used in hospitals in Boston to let healthcare workers communicate with patients and deliver medicine over safe distances.